Lisa McKeown knew something was wrong when her employees said they heard a loud crash coming from the unoccupied storefront next door. McKeown, a State Farm Insurance agent, had just returned from lunch Tuesday when a second crash was heard. McKeown then noticed water seeping underneath the wall she shared with the adjacent space.
"I have three different rooms on that side of the wall," she said. "The second room also had water coming out, three to four feet from the wall. The third room had mud because the office space next to me doesn't have all of its cement together. The roof hit so hard it pushed the mud up and through the walls."
Rain, hail and a rotted sub-structure sent the roof crashing through the storefront between Papa Murphy's Pizza and State Farm on M Street at about 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, according to Fire Chief Steve Wakefield of the Crescent Fire Protection District. No one was injured, but Papa Murphy's, State Farm and Spotlight Video were forced to close.
Wakefield attributed the cave-in to a long-term lack of maintenance. Leaky conditions and the recent wet weather were too much for the roof to withstand, he said.
"(The roof) couldn't take it anymore because the sub-structure was all rotted," he said, estimatingthe damage at more than $100,000. "They're going to have to have engineers and a contractor decide what kind of work can be done."
Yellow caution tape surrounded the building Wednesday and even though customers stopped by the Spotlight Video drop box to turn in movies, the three businesses were still closed. County Building Official Dave Thompson said he and the business owners were waiting for an engineer hired by the Rite Aid corporation, which owns the building, to assess the damage.
Inside the unoccupied storefront, yellow insulation material littered the unfinished floor. The impact of the cave-in had caused the roof beams to buckle. Rainwater soaked the muddy ground and was still dripping through the hole in the roof.
Rite Aid contracted Stover Engineering to assess the damage and come up with a plan to fix it, Thompson said. Whether the three businesses can reopen quickly depends on how bad the damage is and whether it goes into the other occupied spaces, he said. Thompson added that it was lucky the cave-in occurred in a unoccupied part of the building.
"We can't take any chances," Thompson said, adding that the building's trusses have rotted and are broken. "It was pretty catastrophic. It's been leaking in there for quite awhile."
Wendell Freeman, area supervisor for Papa Murphy's Pizza, said Wednesday that he is still waiting to hear when the restaurant can reopen. He added that the restaurant will take a financial loss, but it's too early to tell how much.
"I have no idea when we're going to be able to open again," he said, adding that the business had only been open for about an hour and a half prior to being evacuated Tuesday. "Really the only thing we know right now is that the roof has collapsed in the vacancy next to us and it has caused us to close down."
He added that any building issues, including leaky roofs, have been addressed promptly.
Melissa Hannan, who owns Spotlight Video, said she too is waiting to see when she can reopen.
"We're hoping we can get the business back going," she said.
McKeown, who has been the State Farm agent for that branch for six years, said the adjacent storefront has never been occupied. The owners had recently covered the windows with a black tarp, she said.
"Nobody's paying attention to that building, particularly that office space," she said. "I'm the one that power washes it."
Although McKeown was able to use her 24-hour emergency service on Tuesday to help her customers, she said she would have to find a way to reopen.
"When I asked (Thompson) if it was going to take a day, they laughed at me," she said. "When I asked if it would take five days, they smiled really big and explained to me an engineer is going to have to come out there and make sure it's safe and they're going to have to get some contractors out there."
Attempts to reach a Rite Aid spokesperson were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.