Miller Hill Mall Roof Collapse: Cleanup, Reopening Update, Engineering

Removing Snow from the Interior of the Mall

DULUTH, Minn. — On day two of the partial roof collapse at the Miller Hill Mall, crews moved in with machines Wednesday to begin clean-up and snow removal efforts.

While representatives from the mall have not provided many details other than they’re thankful nobody was hurt, a manager of one of the stores at the mall told FOX 21 that mall officials plan to open the outside storefronts before interior stores.

As for Wednesday evening, the mall’s official statement said the property would be closed through “at least Thursday.”

Meanwhile, the parking lot in front of Applebee’s and Ulta was a busy place during the day Wednesday.

Cranes were in place lowering big tarps into the building to remove mounds of snow that fell inside.

Crews were also snow-blowing and removing heavy snow from other parts of the roof before the second winter storm arrives Thursday.

Jamar Companies, Northland Construction and Summit Fire Prevention were all seen at the mall Wednesday, as officials try to safely get the property reopened to the public.

St. Louis County Auditor’s Office Moves  to Temporary Location

One of the businesses affected by the roof collapse is the St. Louis County Auditor’s Service Center, which is normally housed along a back section of the mall.

For the time being, the customer service center has been relocated to the County Auditor’s Office in the St. Louis County Courthouse in Downtown Duluth.

Ben Martin, the manager of the mall location, says the 11 people who work at the mall will help with the work at the downtown location. “It’s a little more tight, obviously. We have larger nine work station service center up at the mall. We’re now operating four work stations at this time, but we’re trying to stay busy and service the customers the best that we can under the hardship of being closed.”

Hours for services at the temporary office are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

What Might Cause a Roof to Collapse?

Brock Hedegaard, an associate professor of civil engineering at UMD, said snow depth is one important factor to consider when it comes to roof collapses.  But he said it’s the type of snow that can be the real issue.

“If you have really dense snow, snow can vary a lot. You have the light, fluffy stuff you can have the wet dense stuff, you can have the stuff that we probably had on the roof there, which is melted a little bit and then refreezes and melted a little bit more and refreezes and it really gets compacted down. So sometimes it’s even deceiving when you have two feet of snow and its very, very dense and it’s going to weigh a lot compared to four feet of fluffy stuff and you can say, that’s fine,” Hedegaard said.

Hedegaard said the age of the roof is another contributing factor, from wear and tear to building standards that are considered out of date today.

The Miller Hill Mall was built in the early 1970s.

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