Snow load concerns close Solon Springs School

Crews are working to remove snow from a section of the roof after officials noticed sagging trusses on Thursday, March 16.

032323.N.ST.Solon Roof.jpg
A crew from Paul's Sheet Metal of Rice Lake clears snow off the roof of the Solon Springs School on Tuesday, March 21. The weight of snow in an area of the roof has caused the trusses to bend.
Contributed / Frank Helquist

SOLON SPRINGS — Students in Solon Springs did not return to the classroom this week due to the heavy snow load on a section of the school roof, which has caused some sagging of the trusses.

District Administrator Frank Helquist said Tuesday, March 21, that the school building will be closed all week.

“We want to get the kids back here as soon as we can, but it has to be safe for them to be here,” he said.

Snow and ice on the pitched roof of the Sandy Slade gymnasium started sliding down, putting additional pressure on a section of the lower roof. The 1,800 square-foot area affected is located above the main hallway outside of the school office extending into the commons hallway area. It comprises a little over 2% of the total school roof surface.

Maintenance and transportation director Mark Dahlberg noticed the sagging trusses Thursday, March 16 during school district's spring break.


“Trusses are intended to take weight and sag,” Helquist said. “But we’re seeing where it’s too much because it’s affecting some other things.”

The district is working with a crew from Paul’s Sheet Metal in Rice Lake to relieve pressure on the roof. Helquist said about a dozen workers from the Rice Lake company spent Tuesday pulling snow off the roof using a crane outfitted with a scoop, as well as a skid steer. The snow pack that slid onto the lower roof is still connected to the mass of snow on the gymnasium roof, he said.

The roof and trusses will be inspected by an engineer with Rice Lake-based Cooper Engineering Thursday, March 23, after the snow load is gone, Helquist said, and what they find will dictate the next steps.

“The district is taking a very precautionary approach,” he said.

The Solon Springs School Board held its regular meeting in the art room Monday, March 20, as other areas of the roof have not been affected.

Students will transition to a virtual format and learning from home Thursday and Friday, with material pick up for all students from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, according to a post on the Solon Springs School Facebook page. Most students didn’t bring their books or classwork home over spring break, Helquist said.

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So much snow

According to the National Weather Service, Solon Springs has already set an unofficial snowfall record this season. The area has received 128 inches of snow since July 1, as well as 11.48 inches of precipitation since Oct. 1. The snow depth in Solon Springs as of Tuesday morning was 36 inches.


“One thing that is important to note is that this year's snow is how moisture laden it is,” said Steve Gohde, observing program leader and hydrology program manager with the National Weather Service in Duluth. “We had many snow and rain on snow events in January and February. With warmer snow events and rain on snow episodes this year we have an unusually heavy snowpack.”

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Solon Springs seasonal snowfall totals for July 1 to June 30. The 2022-2023 season's 128 inches is from July 1, 2022 through March 20, 2023.
Contributed / National Weather Service of Duluth

Gohde called this year’s record snowfall unofficial because Solon Springs records, which were taken from 1907-1920, 1949-2008 and restarted through a volunteer observer program in 2018, have not been continuous and have been taken at different locations.

That total is set to rise soon. Another 2-4 inches of snow is expected during the week, according to a release from the National Weather Service. The record snowfall could lead to additional problems as the weather warms up.

“We see high potential for a very active spring snowmelt runoff this season which has us concerned for regional flooding,” Gohde said.

This story was updated at 8:10 a.m. March 22, to include a graph of Solon Springs record snow totals.  It was originally posted at 4:17 p.m. March 21.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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