DULUTH, Minn. — Miller Hill Mall in Duluth was evacuated after a portion of the roof collapsed Tuesday morning.
According to the Duluth Fire Department, the collapse happened around 9 a.m. near Applebee's Restaurant, which is located at the northern end of the mall next to Barnes & Noble.
At the time of the collapse, the mall hadn't opened to the public yet. Pete Johnson, assistant chief of special operations with the Duluth Fire Department, said employees inside the building were able to help first responders determine how many people needed to be evacuated. NBC affiliate KBJR in Duluth reported that an employee who evacuated from the nearby Dick’s Sporting Goods said the building smelled "strongly of natural gas." Initially, there was a gas leak but crews were able to turn off the gas.
Duluth has measured 116.4" of snowfall this winter and its currently the city's ninth snowiest winter on record. More than 12" of new snow fell in Duluth over the weekend.
According to the city, crews were on the mall's roof clearing snow when they heard popping sounds and got off the roof.
When asked if snow piled on the roof contributed to the collapse, Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said the mall regularly clears snow throughout the season. He wasn't sure exactly how much snowpack was on the roof at the time of the collapse but said snow from a recent weekend storm was still on the building.
"Not only are we seeing lots of snowfall but the consistency of the snowfall has been really heavy, really wet, really moisture-laden and that leads to heavier amounts of snow," KARE 11 Meteorologist Ben Dery said.
The department said no injuries have been reported, but the public is asked to stay away from the mall until further notice.
"I think it was fortunate that it wasn't during their regular business hours. Of course there were still people in there but it was a minimal amount," Johnson said.
Krizaj said it could take "multiple days" before the collapse zone is isolated, and added that engineers will determine if and when the building is safe.
KARE 11 has reached out to the mall's owner, Simon Property Group, and are waiting to hear back.
This is a developing story. KARE 11 will provide more details as new information becomes available.
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