Part of snowy Spokane market roof collapses

Part of snowy Spokane market roof collapses
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The center of a snow-laden supermarket roof collapsed Monday evening, prompting the evacuation of that store and adjacent businesses. A fire official said only one minor injury was reported.

About 25,000 square feet of roof fell in at a Rosauers Supermarket in north Spokane. Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer estimated that was about half of the grocery's roof, which had been laden with at least 30 inches of snow. One female employee received a minor injury but all employees and shoppers quickly evacuated, he said.

"One of the managers came out and started screaming, 'The roof is collapsing,"' customer Joan Waters told The Spokesman-Review. She said she was waiting for a birthday cake to be inscribed when she heard a loud crashing sound coming from the ceiling.

"The store was not that crowded so there was not a major traffic jam at the front door," she added.

Adjoining businesses in the strip mall complex were under a mandatory evacuation.

"We're really concerned about secondary collapse," Schaeffer said. "There's a lot of creaking."

The roof collapse came as Spokane set a monthly record for snowfall, at 59.7 inches, after 8.3 inches were recorded in the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ellie Kelch. The previous record of 56.9 inches was set in January 1950. Snowfall records in the area have been kept since 1893, Kelch said.

That's more snow than the area receives in a typical winter.

The next storm, likely bringing another couple inches of snow, was expected Tuesday night, Kelch said.

In the Puget Sound region, winds gusting to 45 miles per hour knocked out power to some areas during Monday's noon hour. Seattle City Light reported that power was restored to more than 3,000 customers by late afternoon.

Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman MacKenzie McDowell says the utility had scattered outages in Kitsap and north King County.

In contrast to last week's snow storm, much of Western Washington on Monday had cloudy skies, with rain showers mixed with some sun breaks.

Winds gusted to 35 mph in parts of Eastern Washington, causing drifting snow and reduced visibility for drivers.

Roads were so clogged in Spokane that police asked tractor-trailer rig drivers to use chains, after several big trucks became stuck in giant snowbanks. Black ice was also causing numerous accidents on Interstate 90, officials said.

All 90 of Spokane's plows, sanders and deicers were working to clear arterial streets, leaving residential streets that were still clogged with snow, officials said. Private contractors have also been hired.

Snow was falling late Monday in several of Washington's mountain passes, including Snoqualmie and Stevens.

A Colville man was killed in an avalanche Sunday in Okanogan County. Joshua S. Peters, 24, was snowmobiling with three others when he was caught in the avalanche, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said. The others were able to dig him out after about 15 minutes, but couldn't revive him, Rogers said.

In Spokane, the wet snow presented a danger to a number of other roofs as well.

A building at the Spokane County Interstate Fair collapsed late last week, facilities manager Craig Crocker said Monday. The building was unoccupied at the time.

Spokane County ordered employees to evacuate the Information Systems Department building on Monday because of snow load and a risk of collapse.

The Spokane Fire Department said the city has had a handful of incidents involving natural gas leaks where snow or ice fell and sheared off gas meters. There have also been more than a dozen roof collapses involving buildings and car ports.

Numerous vehicles slid off Interstate 90 in the Spokane area. The Washington State Patrol responded to about 50 collisions Monday, Trooper Joe Leibrecht said, but no serious injuries were reported.

Southwest Airlines canceled some flights at the Spokane airport, and other airlines reported delays.