MOORHEAD — Roof collapses at a church and three businesses were reported Sunday, March 10, after a storm dumped about 9 inches of heavy wet snow on the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Thankfully, services had been cancelled at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church due to the weather. Otherwise, there's no doubt there could have been a tragedy, said Moorhead Assistant Fire Chief Benton Hicks.
Shortly after noon Sunday, the Moorhead Fire Department was called to the church at 601 15th Ave. N. A large portion of the roof had collapsed into the dining and kitchen area where churchgoers would have normally been enjoying coffee after Mass.
“There was so much snow that they didn’t have service this morning,” Hicks told The Forum. “We’re very fortunate.”
Two people were inside the church when its roof collapsed, but no one was hurt, fire crews told WDAY News.
Hicks said the snow depth on the church roof was 3 to 4 feet in some spots. He believed the cause of the collapse to be excessive snow load, but an inspection will determine any other potential causes.
The church hired a construction company to clear snow from the remainder of the roof to prevent further collapse.
Also on Sunday, part of the roof collapsed at Trail King Industries at 2130 3rd Ave. N.W. in West Fargo.
At 6:42 a.m., the West Fargo Fire Department was dispatched to Trail King for a water flow alarm. When crews arrived, they found windows blown out on the south side of the building and a fire could be seen on the roof, according to a fire department report.
"It appeared that under the weight of our recent snow falls, a section of the roof collapsed, shearing a gas line in the process and igniting a fire," the report stated.
The roof had 5 to 7 feet of snow covering it despite the business’ efforts to clear off snow periodically, West Fargo Fire Chief Dan Fuller said.
“It’s pretty obvious that the weight of that snow is what caused it,” Fuller said of the collapse.
Firefighters shut off the gas and extinguished the fire. They searched the building for victims and found none, fire officials said. No injuries were reported.
A Trail King employee told WDAY News a section of the roof over the engineering offices of the building caved in on itself.
The manufacturing plant in the building appeared to be undamaged, the employee said. Trail King Industries designs, engineers and manufactures trailers.
Another roof collapse occurred at Matt's Automotive Service Center at 1234 1st Ave. N. in Moorhead. Fire crews were sent there at 10:37 a.m.
An employee came to remove snow and discovered the roof on the north side of the shop had collapsed and knocked off a gas line.
The fourth roof collapse was reported shortly before 3:30 p.m. at R. J. Corman Railroad Services, 2216 Main Ave. E. in West Fargo.
A middle swath of the building's roof collapsed, leaving the walls intact. Workers in the building escaped without injury and immediately called 911, Fuller said.
"A structural engineer will have to come in and check the integrity of the rest of the building," he said.
Damage costs for all four buildings will be determined in the coming days, pending inspections.
Fargo has received a total of 58.1 inches of snow so far this winter, above the average of about 37 inches for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service.
To prevent roof collapses, Fuller said, anyone with a large span of flat roof should consult with a structural engineer to make sure it can hold heavy snowfall. Also, services are available locally for removing snow from roofs.