Roof Collapse in Heavy Snow Leaves Struggling Family Homeless

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PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — The Ericson family thought they were just visiting the grandparents for the weekend and then returning home. But after a blizzard blew through their New Hampshire town over the weekend — dumping so much snow it caused the roof to cave in — a motel room has become their new home.

Kelley Ericson’s apartment building in Portsmouth was one of two in the Patriots Park apartment complex where the roof collapsed because of the heavy snowfall the last three weeks — they've gotten about 55 inches in less than a month.

When Ericson arrived home from her parents, a maintenance man told her the roof of a neighboring apartment had collapsed and said a mandatory evacuation order meant she had 10 minutes to pack up her life.

“It’s hard with an eight- and a 10-year-old who, on a rotating basis, are best friends and mortal enemies."

“It was absolutely awful,” Ericson said. “I grabbed everything I could think of — medication, clothes and laptops, fed Charlie (the family’s bearded dragon lizard) and gave him whatever I thought he could survive on.”

Ericson then headed to the Comfort Inn where she will live indefinitely with her son, Max, and daughter, Savannah. According to the property management firm for the Patriots Park Apartments, about 215 families were affected, like Ericson, by the mandatory evacuation.

Kelley Ericson and her two kids moved into a hotel on short notice after their apartment building suffered a partial roof collapse from heavy snow in Portsmouth, N.H.John Brecher / NBC News

The unexpected move was worrisome for Ericson, who is unemployed and applying for nursing jobs.

“I’m hoping that Patriots Park is going to make some arrangements for us. I’m a single mother living on food stamps and child support right now. I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. “That’s what credit cards are for, I guess.”

Ericson is also concerned about how disruptive living in a motel will be for her kids and what the close quarters will mean for the family.

“We are going to get on each other’s nerves and be at each other’s throats quickly,” she said. “It’s hard with an eight- and a 10-year-old who, on a rotating basis, are best friends and mortal enemies. Trying to keep the peace will probably be my biggest challenge.”

So far, Max and Savannah have been on their best behavior. Though they’re worried about their pet, living in a hotel with a swimming pool seems like an exciting stay-cation - at least for now.

“I’m trying to figure out how to keep my attitude positive, keep my game face on, because I don’t want them to feel grown-up stresses,” Ericson said. “I’m sort of (trying) to figure out how to maintain what is as close to our normal routine as possible and make it fun, if possible, without bankrupting me anymore.”