No injuries after two buildings’ roofs collapse in Juneau

Firefighters look at building.
Capital City Fire/Rescue stands outside of a building where a roof collapsed in downtown Juneau. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Juneau officials say the roofs of at least two buildings in Juneau have failed, apparently due to heavy snow loads as of noon Tuesday. Emergency responders confirmed both buildings were vacant.

One of the buildings is along Willoughby Avenue downtown. Property records show it’s a 7,200-square-foot commercial building owned by a trust based in California.

Its roof is caved in; beams are broken. The force of the collapse sent insulation up to 50 feet away.

Fire Chief Rich Etheridge said the arched roof was built with bowstring trusses.

“They can take a lot of structural load and it’s a cheap way to span long distances, but the problem is once they fail, they fail catastrophically like you can see here where they’re like, broken in half and just kind of shattered everywhere,” Etheridge said.

The water and electricity have been shut off. Etheridge said the city hasn’t been able to reach the building’s owner yet.

The other building is in the Lemon Creek area, behind Western Auto. It’s owned by a Juneau-based trust.

Juneau Emergency Programs Manager Tom Mattice had advice for property owners.

“Obviously, if you have a lot of snow on your structures, it’s a concern,” Mattice said. “But now is probably not the best time to be standing up on top jumping up and down on ‘em, either. So, these are difficult decisions to make.”

He said local firms with structural engineering know-how can give property owners a better idea of what to do.

“But, you know, if you’re hearing creaking and moaning? Good time to make sure you’re in a safe place,” he said.

Mattice said since the weather shifted, there have also been reports of nuisance flooding.

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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