Duluth's Miller Hill Mall evacuated after roof collapse Tuesday morning
The city's fire department said no injuries have been reported
DULUTH — The Miller Hill Mall in Duluth was evacuated Tuesday morning after a roof collapse. No injuries were immediately reported.
The collapse was reported at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 14, near the Applebee's restaurant, according to the Duluth Fire Department.
Scott Skar, manager of the Barnes & Noble in the mall, told the News Tribune he was preparing to open the store when he heard a loud noise and felt the building shake at about 8:55 a.m. After looking through the gate at the mall entrance to the store, he saw snow in the courtyard hallway near Express.
Skar called out to see if anyone was hurt, but did not get a response. He then called 911 and the mall manager. Skar and his employees reported a strong gas smell and left the mall. He said the gas smell was strong even outside the mall after they'd evacuated.
AW Kuettel & Sons Inc. had a crew on the roof clearing snow Tuesday morning.
Luke Kuettel said they were clearing a spot about 100 yards away from the portion that collapsed. As they prepared to move to that spot, a crew member and the mall's operation director went under the roof to check the area. They reported that the roof area seemed unsafe, and it caved in shortly after, Kuettel said.
Kelli Latuska, public information officer for the City of Duluth, said water and gas were turned off and everyone was accounted for.
The public is asked to stay away from the mall area.
Essentia Health has closed all of its facilities in the mall for the remainder of the day Tuesday — the Essentia Health-Miller Hill Pharmacy, Center for Personal Fitness, Therapy and Performance Center, Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center, Essentia Health Surgery Center-Miller Hill and the Essentia Health-Miller Hill Clinic (Duluth).
Even though the collapse was not directly over any Essentia properties, Essentia said in a news release that it is working with mall leadership to decide when the facilities will reopen. Patients affected by the closure will be contacted directly to reschedule appointments.
The Duluth International Airport reported that 12.5 inches of snow fell over the weekend, and the city has tallied 116.4 inches for the entire winter season.
The Miller Hill Mall previously had to temporarily close some stores in February 2014 after the roof's structural integrity was questioned during another year of heavy snowfall. A crack and bowing were reported in the roof that winter, when Duluth had received about 84 inches of snow. The roof of the former JCPenney also had to be reinforced in December 1983, another year of unusually heavy snow and ice load.
The mall opened in 1973 and was expanded in 1987. In 2014, mall manager Katie Altrichter told the News Tribune the newer portions of the mall were built to more demanding standards.