Family forced to flee when weight of snow collapses their roof

A family of four may be homeless for up to six months after the roof of their house cracked in half early yesterday under the weight of piling snow.



At around 5 a.m., homeowner Chris Hesson woke up to the sound of loud creaking overhead.



"The next thing I know there was a huge cracking sound and splintering of wood and the whole ceiling caved in. The whole roof collapsed," he said.

"Then it was silence after that. The kids were screaming. It was scary."

Hesson and his wife Laurie collected their 18-month-old daughter Kathleen and son Ryan, 7, and ran out of their house at 730 Keenan Ave. Once outside, they called the fire department.

The walls of the 47-year-old house have been pushed out at the top and the roof split apart under the weight of snow. Part of the roof collapsed through the kitchen ceiling. At the back of the house, Hesson said the roof "looks ready to slide right off."

"The house is probably not fixable," he said. "We’re going to stay in the neighbourhood. We just have to rebuild it."

For now, the family is staying with in-laws and Hesson expects the insurance company will pay to accommodate them until the house is rebuilt, which could take half a year.

Hesson had thought about hiring a crew to remove snow from his roof after the capital was buried under 83 centimetres over five days. But he didn’t think the work was urgently needed.

"It didn’t look like there was any more up there than on previous years, but I guess the back side had more than we knew," he said.

Peter Black, Ottawa’s manager of building inspection, said "we’re not really sure what caused the collapse."

"The insurance company has their engineers inspecting the house and until all the factors are known we’re really just speculating."

Black said people should be concerned about snow on their roof if it is deeper than 2.5 feet, or if the building is showing signs of stress. However, professionals should do the clearing.


  • City engineers won’t enter the building. Chris Hesson was not even allowed back in to get bottles for the baby.