“I think one person had a cut above their eye,” said Ogemaw Fire Chief Brent Banning. “But nothing major.”
A call went out over the police scanner at around 1:30 p.m. reporting that there had been a roof collapse at the Ralph Lauren store in West Branch. Banning said when the fire department arrived, no one was inside the building.
The rest of the mall was evacuated shortly thereafter.
A second collapse occurred just before 2:30 p.m., when the front wall of the building gave way. All of the damage appeared to be confined to the Ralph Lauren store.
The cause of the collapse was not yet known Thursday afternoon, but fire officials suspected it had to do with heavy snow sitting on the roof.
“I think it’s snow on the roof,” Banning said. “That’s the only thing I can come up with.”
Tanger General Manager Vicki Seltz Barnes said the outlet is closed until further notice.
“We’re really happy no one was injured seriously,” Seltz Barnes said. “We have a structural engineer flying in and our corporate people are flying in to determine the situation.”
Banning said as of 3 p.m. he was waiting for the engineers to arrive to decide what the next step would be.
“We’re going to find out what we’ve got to do here, if we want to start tearing it down,” Banning said. “Applebee’s is closed. I’ve got them closed down. We’re trying to keep everyone back, keep everybody safe.”
Banning said there will be security on hand overnight, to keep people away from the building and to prevent looting.
“We’ve already talked about having security up here,” he said. “So we’re going to get somebody to watch it for the night and figure out what our next step is.”
Banning said the biggest concern is safety.
“My opinion is, if we had troubles here, the same amount of snow is all the way down,” he said. “I’m just worried about people’s safety. I don’t want something to happen here and have somebody get hurt over there.”
Ogemaw County Sheriff Howie Hanft told the Herald Thursday night that the inside of the Hanes store located next to the Ralph Lauren store also suffered major damage inside. The inside of the Van Heusen store also suffered some water damage, he said.
As of 9 p.m. Thursday evening, no additional damage had been done.
The Herald will continue to report as more information becomes available.