UPDATED: Duluth’s Miller Hill Mall Remains Closed Following Roof Collapse
UPDATED 6:30 pm 3/14/23
The Miller Hill Mall remains closed as Tuesday's roof collapse continues to be assessed. Officials told our news partners at WDIO that it could be a couple of days before the next steps are known. The Miller Hill Mall's ownership, Simon Malls, has yet to publicly comment on the situation.
As of Tuesday evening, a crane is on the scene, with early work being done in response to the roof collapse.
While an official cause for the roof collapse has not been announced, a likely culprit is heavy snow on the roof. This winter is now one of the 10 snowiest on record in Duluth, with over a foot of snow falling over the weekend. It has been reported that snow removal crews were beginning work after this weekend's storm, but aerial photos do show a lot of snow on the roof near the area of the collapse.
Our news partners at WDIO spoke with UMD Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Brock Hedegaard, who offered some insight into the roof collapse and structural integrity of the mall.
Hedegaard explained that it could have been about 80 tons of snow weighting on the area that collapsed. Using rough figures, he explained that "If you have 40 feet by 80 feet, that’s, you know, 3000 square feet, or about 3200. And then if you have 50 pounds of snow every square foot, you’re looking at 160,000 pounds of snow. So 80 tons."
The mall was not yet open to the public when the collapse occurred on Tuesday morning. The mall normally opens at 10 am, and the reports of a collapse occurred around 9 am, an hour before opening to the public. While the collapse did occur before opening, employees of various stores within the mall were at work, preparing to open for the day. Some videos and photos from employees can be seen from our previuos update further down this article.
As of this latest update, there have been no reports of any injuries.
PREVIOUS POST 2:00 pm 3/14/23
Emergency response crews responded to a reported roof collapse call Tuesday morning. The Duluth Fire Department reported that they were called to the scene at about 9 am Tuesday morning, where a roof collapse was reported on the site of the Applebees Restaurant on the side of the mall facing Miller Trunk Highway.
While crews were parked near Applebees, photos surfacing from within the mall Tuesday morning are showing damage further into the mall, with images coming in via social media depicting a large hole in the roof on the north side of the mall, which is being identified as the corridor space between the Caribou Coffee Kiosk and Old Navy, just down the entrance corridor from Applebees, where a large emergency response was visible Tuesday morning.
Our news partners at WDIO TV spoke with Scott Skar, an employee at Barnes and Noble, which is in the area of the roof collapse. Skar told WDIO that they heard a loud noise from the roof, saying "They've been clearing snow off, but it seemed louder than normal. Then I heard a coworker yell my name, and said the roof over the hallway in the mall had collapsed."
Skar and other people in the mall reported the smell of gas following the collapse, with city officials saying that gas and water to the building have been shut off.
No injuries have been reported at this time, and the mall was evacuated. Authorities are asking the public to stay away from the mall area, and an investigation into the roof collapse is ongoing.
With the evacuation, Essentia Health's Miller Hill Mall facilities have been closed at least for the remainder of the day. Essentia explained in a social media post that "While the snow-related collapse was not directly over any Essentia property, the Essentia Health-Miller Hill Pharmacy, Center for Personal Fitness, Therapy and Performance Center, Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center and the Essentia Health-Miller Hill Clinic (Duluth) are all closed for the remainder of today."
Photos popping up online show a sizable collapse near the Caribou Coffee kiosk, down the corridor, toward Old Navy, Bath Planet and Express. One photo on social media shows a large hole to the roof to the east of the Caribou Coffee kiosk.
Another photo shows a large pile of snow near what appears to be the Express store, with a pool of water from melting snow in the hallway.
A person named Kayla shared a pair of videos (below) from inside the Old Navy store. The videos show water on the floor inside the store, also revealing a large pile of snow and the hole in the roof down the hallway, toward the Caribou Coffee kiosk. If the embedded post below isn't showing up, you can see both of the videos here.
Aerial photos from a drone show the large hole in the roof, with a significant amount of snow present across the mall roof.
There is currently no update on how this will impact business at the mall.
This is a developing news story. We'll update it with more information as it becomes available.