MILFORD, Conn. – Roofs caved in as a massive snowstorm enveloping much of the nation invaded the Northeast on Wednesday, bringing buildings to the breaking point in a winter that has already delivered more snow than many cities typically see in a whole season. No one has been seriously injured.
There were several reports of structural collapses around the region, including a gas station canopy on New York's Long Island and an airplane hangar near Boston. In at least two places, workers' sense of hearing allowed them to narrowly escape.
The entire third floor of a building in Middletown collapsed, littering the street with bricks and snapping two trees. Acting Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said two workers fled when they heard a cracking sound.
"It's like a bomb scene," Santostefano said. "Thank God they left the building when they did."
Officials in Enfield, Conn., responded to a second major roof collapse in two days Wednesday, when the top of an auto repair and towing business caved in. On Tuesday, an 80-by-40-foot section of roof at a warehouse building collapsed.
"We've been extremely fortunate in these two incidents that no one's been trapped or killed," said Ed Richards, an Enfield fire chief. "I'm urging folks to get their roofs cleaned off as much as they can."
Homeowners heeded that and similar calls by shoveling thick layers from their roofs.
In southeastern Massachusetts, Ken Ritchie drove 45 minutes to his mother's house in Whitman to shovel about a foot of wet, heavy snow off her roof. Ritchie shoveled the roof as a cold, steady rain fell, while his mother, Kathie Ritchie, dug out her car and shoveled her driveway.
"I almost started crying when he came to my door this morning to clear off the roof," she said. "He's a wonderful young man."
Part of a hangar collapsed at Norwood Memorial Airport near Boston, damaging a helicopter and six planes. In Easton, Mass., Triton Technologies employees heard cracking and metal bending and escaped before their building collapsed.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said emergency officials were on standby should structures collapse. There were several reports of roofs collapsing in Rhode Island, including an an old mill building and a gas station.
Snowfall totals this winter are off the charts along parts of the Interstate 95 corridor between Boston and Philadelphia.
Newark, N.J., was hit with 62 inches of snow through Jan. 27, compared with the seasonal average of 25 inches. In New York City, 56 inches of snow has fallen on Central Park, compared to the 22-inch seasonal average.
Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford and Providence also are notably above average, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.
The problem of where to put cleared-away snow vexed some municipal officials.
In Portland, Maine, the downtown snow-storage area was expected to reach capacity after this week's storm — the first time that has happened in three years.
"It's not so much about plowing as it is about to where to put it," said Mike Schumaker, a contractor in the Albany area. "We still have snow from Christmas that hasn't melted."
Hill reported from Albany, N.Y. Contributing were Associated Press writers Chris Carola in Albany, Denise Lavoie in Whitman, Mass., Dave Collins in Hartford, Conn., and Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine.