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Fearing roof collapses under snow, Valdez closes schools

Casey Grove
Location: Valdez, Alaska, 01/18/12 A team of snowshovelers finish the gymnasium roof of Gilson Junior HIgh in Valdez, AK.
Photo courtesy of Matt Kinney / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez neighborhoods, 1/122/2012
Photo courtesy of Lucia and Victoria Hedman / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez january2012, jan 2012
Photo courtesy of dale houseman / ADN reader submission
Coast Guard personnel in Valdez use a variety of equipment to remove the monumental amount of snow at the Coast Guard facilities Jan. 11, 2012. Record snowfall has created problems for the Valdez community, but local Coast Guardsmen and city employees are working to clear the icy burden.
U.S. Coast Guard
Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Azevedo, pictured in front, and Petty Officer 2rd Class Will Yi, both electronics technicians with Electronic Support Detachment Valdez, shovel snow at a local's house Jan. 12, 2012. Area Coast Guardsmen worked with the city of Valdez to assist in clearing the record amounts of snowfall that affected the region.
Lt. j. g. Allie Ferko / U.S. Coast Guard
Personnel from Electronic Support Detachment Valdez pose with a local homeowner after clearing snow from around her house Jan. 12, 2012. Snow from a neighbor's house slid off the roof, blocked her front door and went through a wall into the house.
Lt. j. g. Allie Ferko / U.S. Coast Guard
Location: Foraker St. Valdez, 1/5/2012 Fortunately, a path has been cut through the walls of the "cave" to get tp the porch.
Photo courtesy of Judith Almy / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK-Small Boat Harbor, 01/09/12
Photo courtesy of Mary Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK-Small Boat Harbor, 01/12/12
Photo courtesy of Mary Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK-Small Boat Harbor, 01/12/12
Photo courtesy of Mary Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 01/06/12 Our poor Birch tree! Birch trees don't normally grow here in Valdez...I got this from a greenhouse in Anchorage a long time ago. We just knock off the snow...I am determined to have a Birch tree in my yard! :)
Photo courtesy of Melinda Williams / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/12 After the storm and snow plow
Photo courtesy of Charles Nalen / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/10/12
Photo courtesy of kent / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 1/09/12
Photo courtesy of Shannon Irish / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 1/09/12
Photo courtesy of Shannon Irish / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez Small Boat Harbor, 01/08/12
Photo courtesy of Lori Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 1-8-11 We decided to hold off on shoveling until Sunday, the 8th, as we were expected to get another foot of powder at least. After about 7 hours later and so much snow that we were able to make platforms level with our roof on all sides, we cleared a good portion of it :)
Photo courtesy of Don Bickley / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 1/8/12 We decided to hold off on shoveling until Sunday, the 8th, as we were expected to get another foot of powder at least. After about 7 hours later and so much snow that we were able to make platforms level with our roof on all sides, we cleared a good portion of it :)
Photo courtesy of Don Bickley / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 01/07/12 My driveway
Photo courtesy of Scott Benda / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez Alaska, 12/15/11 December snow stacking up against my greenhouse and connex in the back yard...the greenhouse has no roof...we took it off in September
Photo courtesy of Sandra / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, Alaska, 01/06/12 Valdez homes along Mineral Creek.
Photo courtesy of Matt Kinney / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/07/12 Valdez Battle Cry!
Photo courtesy of Al Laudert / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 01/06/12
Photo courtesy of Debra Marsden / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, alaska, 01/08/2012 pugs morning view in valdez
Photo courtesy of v hiebert / ADN reader submission
A path is cut through high snow berms in Valdez Friday.
Photo courtesy Mark Hoover / ADN Reader submission
Berms get taller following another storm Friday January 6, 2012 at George H. Gilson Junior High School in Valdez.
Photo courtesy Rod Morrison / ADN Reader submission
Photo by Tom GallatinAsa Brewi takes her Tibetan mastiff dog Bjorn for a walk Friday afternoon January 6, 2012 in Valdez.
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy of v hiebert / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, alaska, 01/15/2012
Photo courtesy of val hiebert / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, alaska, 01/15/2012
Photo courtesy of val hiebert / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Dan Rady / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Dan Rady / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Barry McIntosh / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Carol Cozzen / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Carol Cozzen / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Carol Cozzen / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Barry McIntosh / ADN Reader submission
Location: Municipal Dock/Plaza in Valdez
Photo courtesy Thomas Kelsey / ADN Reader submission
Location: Municipal Dock/Plaza in Valdez
Photo courtesy Thomas Kelsey / ADN Reader submission
The TAPS team here in Valdez. They work at Alyeska's Valdez Marine Terminal continues, where we're safely moving oil...and a lot of snow! The sun's out now, but the forecast is for more snow tomorrow.
Photo courtesy: Kate Herring / ADN Reader submission
The TAPS team here in Valdez. They work at Alyeska's Valdez Marine Terminal continues, where we're safely moving oil...and a lot of snow! The sun's out now, but the forecast is for more snow tomorrow.
Photo courtesy: Kate Herring / ADN Reader submission
The TAPS team here in Valdez. They work at Alyeska's Valdez Marine Terminal continues, where we're safely moving oil...and a lot of snow! The sun's out now, but the forecast is for more snow tomorrow.
Photo courtesy: Kate Herring / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, Alaska, 01/18/12 A team of snowshovelers finish the gymnasium roof of Gilson Junior HIgh in Valdez, AK.
Photo courtesy of Matt Kinney / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, 01-11-2012
Photo courtesy of Jodi / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez neighborhoods, 1/122/2012
Photo courtesy of Lucia and Victoria Hedman / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez january2012, jan 2012
Photo courtesy of dale houseman / ADN reader submission
Coast Guard personnel in Valdez use a variety of equipment to remove the monumental amount of snow at the Coast Guard facilities Jan. 11, 2012. Record snowfall has created problems for the Valdez community, but local Coast Guardsmen and city employees are working to clear the icy burden.
U.S. Coast Guard
Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Azevedo, pictured in front, and Petty Officer 2rd Class Will Yi, both electronics technicians with Electronic Support Detachment Valdez, shovel snow at a local's house Jan. 12, 2012. Area Coast Guardsmen worked with the city of Valdez to assist in clearing the record amounts of snowfall that affected the region.
Lt. j. g. Allie Ferko / U.S. Coast Guard
Personnel from Electronic Support Detachment Valdez pose with a local homeowner after clearing snow from around her house Jan. 12, 2012. Snow from a neighbor's house slid off the roof, blocked her front door and went through a wall into the house.
Lt. j. g. Allie Ferko / U.S. Coast Guard
Location: Foraker St. Valdez, 1/5/2012 Fortunately, a path has been cut through the walls of the "cave" to get tp the porch.
Photo courtesy of Judith Almy / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK-Small Boat Harbor, 01/09/12
Photo courtesy of Mary Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK-Small Boat Harbor, 01/12/12
Photo courtesy of Mary Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK-Small Boat Harbor, 01/12/12
Photo courtesy of Mary Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 01/06/12 Our poor Birch tree! Birch trees don't normally grow here in Valdez...I got this from a greenhouse in Anchorage a long time ago. We just knock off the snow...I am determined to have a Birch tree in my yard! :)
Photo courtesy of Melinda Williams / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/12 After the storm and snow plow
Photo courtesy of Charles Nalen / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/10/12
Photo courtesy of kent / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 1/09/12
Photo courtesy of Shannon Irish / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 1/09/12
Photo courtesy of Shannon Irish / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez Small Boat Harbor, 01/08/12
Photo courtesy of Lori Day / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 1-8-11 We decided to hold off on shoveling until Sunday, the 8th, as we were expected to get another foot of powder at least. After about 7 hours later and so much snow that we were able to make platforms level with our roof on all sides, we cleared a good portion of it :)
Photo courtesy of Don Bickley / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 1/8/12 We decided to hold off on shoveling until Sunday, the 8th, as we were expected to get another foot of powder at least. After about 7 hours later and so much snow that we were able to make platforms level with our roof on all sides, we cleared a good portion of it :)
Photo courtesy of Don Bickley / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 01/07/12 My driveway
Photo courtesy of Scott Benda / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez Alaska, 12/15/11 December snow stacking up against my greenhouse and connex in the back yard...the greenhouse has no roof...we took it off in September
Photo courtesy of Sandra / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, Alaska, 01/06/12 Valdez homes along Mineral Creek.
Photo courtesy of Matt Kinney / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/07/12 Valdez Battle Cry!
Photo courtesy of Al Laudert / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK, 01/06/12
Photo courtesy of Debra Marsden / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, alaska, 01/08/2012 pugs morning view in valdez
Photo courtesy of v hiebert / ADN reader submission
A path is cut through high snow berms in Valdez Friday.
Photo courtesy Mark Hoover / ADN Reader submission
Berms get taller following another storm Friday January 6, 2012 at George H. Gilson Junior High School in Valdez.
Photo courtesy Rod Morrison / ADN Reader submission
Photo by Tom GallatinAsa Brewi takes her Tibetan mastiff dog Bjorn for a walk Friday afternoon January 6, 2012 in Valdez.
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy of v hiebert / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, alaska, 01/15/2012
Photo courtesy of val hiebert / ADN reader submission
Location: valdez, alaska, 01/15/2012
Photo courtesy of val hiebert / ADN reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Dan Rady / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Dan Rady / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/12/2012
Photo courtesy Tom Gallatin / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Barry McIntosh / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, AK 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Carol Cozzen / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission
Location: Valdez, 01/06/2012
Photo courtesy Ellen Sneve / ADN Reader submission

Heavy snow weighing down roofs has forced Valdez to close its schools for the first time in recent memory, and with the entire city trying to dig out from one massive snowfall to the next, the school district says it is looking for more shovelers to get the schools back open by Monday.

Valdez usually has 151.8 inches of snow by Jan. 12, according to the National Weather Service. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, Valdez had seen a total of nearly 321.8 inches this season.

That's more than 14 feet above normal, and it's starting to weigh on the Prince William Sound city.

The record-breaking winter pushed the local elementary and high school past their legal roof snow-load limits of 90 pounds per square foot, said district superintendent Jacob Jensen. During a special City Council meeting Wednesday, the decision was made to close both schools, as well as the junior high, which was not quite overloaded, with the hope of reopening Monday, Jensen said.

"It becomes a safety issue that they're past structural limits," he said.

In an Alaska winter characterized by extremes, it's yet another entry for the record books: Valdez schools haven't closed due to snow for at least 10 years, probably more, Jensen said. Other longtime Valdez residents say they can't remember another time snow forced a school closure.

"It goes to show that Valdez people are used to snow, so when we close (schools), it's an extraordinary amount of snow. It's a very difficult time right now," Jensen said.

The city was focused on getting the roofs cleared so the schools could open by Monday, Jensen said. Two crews of 20 people each were shoveling a combined 18 hours a day, and the city hopes to add a third crew if it can muster the manpower, he said.

Signs posted around Valdez advertised more than $20 an hour for able-bodied shovelers. The problem, Jensen said, is that everybody in town is busy digging out their own property every day.

"All the contracted snow removal people have been so busy, personal people are having difficulty finding someone to hire," he said.

And though some students have expressed joy at school being closed, an extended closure might mean adding days to the end of the school calendar, Jensen said.

Valdez resident Kathryn Hawkins told the Associated Press the scary part, for her, is it's only mid-January. There are three more months of possible snow in Valdez, and she's not sure where all of it is going to go.

Hawkins said her 12-year-old son, Trevor, has found a positive side to all the snow: He's spending a lot of his free time sliding off the roof into their yard.

Jensen said the piled-up snow is stacked up above many roofs in town.

"A lot of the time, you're shoveling off the roof and up," he said. "It's really hard to believe. ... I'm 6-3 and I can't see out my windows because I can't see over the snow."

Dan Walker, a local massage therapist and school board vice president, said he's been getting dozens of calls for appointments from residents with hurt backs.

"Most people are out spending hours every day shoveling," Walker said.

Some steep roofs have shed snow on their own, but, in at least one case, even that has caused trouble, Walker said: A man told him snow slid from his neighbor's roof, across his yard and smashed into his door.

"He said it bent the frame and blew the door open," Walker said.

A small crew of Coast Guard personnel rushed to the house to dig out the occupants, Walker said.

"The Coast Guard's just been great," he said.

"I think people are really stepping up. There've been a lot of people volunteering over at the school and other local buildings," Walker said. "There is a sense of pride here, like, 'We're the snow capital, we should be able to handle it.' "

There's also a sense of humor about the snow too. In a post on Craigslist, a Valdez resident offered to sell the snow in his or her yard for $10 a load.

"As much as you want. I'll load it you haul it," the ad reads. "I'm tired of it in my yard. Endless supply. Not going to run out anytime soon. ... It's a renewable resource. Email for details."


By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News