‘Everybody get the hell out!’: No one hurt after second Anchorage roof collapses in a week

A roof of an Anchorage commercial building partially collapsed Wednesday, less than a day after municipal building officials mailed out more than 1,000 warnings to owners that their buildings could be at risk. It was the second roof collapse this week following another bout of heavy snow.

The Anchorage Fire Department said it was notified of the collapse at 7400 Old Seward Highway in South Anchorage at 11:26 a.m., according to a prepared statement. Municipal property records show the 10,000-square-foot structure was built in 1979.

“AFD was advised that all building occupants were accounted for. There were no fatalities or injuries reported,” the department said.

Observing the scene Wednesday afternoon, Ross Noffsinger, acting building official, said the building contained the parallel-chord, wooden trusses that have been a problem in other collapses.

Daniel King, a plan review engineer with the municipality, said the building was one of those selected to receive the warning letter.

“This is one of the buildings that’s on our list of people that we’re mailing out to to let them know that these are a concern, and you should be shoveling your roof and getting it analyzed,” he said.

It is at least the sixth to buckle this winter. More than 8 feet of snow has fallen on Anchorage this winter, including 17 inches early this week.


[Over 1,000 Anchorage building owners warned of snow collapse risk and danger to workers]

It is also the second collapse in two days. On Tuesday, a roof at 611 Raspberry Road collapsed.

Noffsinger said on Wednesday the roof on Raspberry Road collapsed in part because of heavy snow. An aerial drone survey showed the roof had likely not been shoveled, he said.

“And it was the trusses of concern, the parallel-chord wood trusses with the metal, gang-nail plates,” he said.

The collapse on Wednesday was limited to one half of the full structure. By early afternoon, five men were pushing snow off the roof above a car accessory business connected by a load bearing wall. The shop’s owner, Shannon Johnston, said he, employees and customers were inside Wednesday when they began hearing strange sounds.

“I said ‘Everybody get the hell out!’” Johnston said, standing outside in the parking lot.

When the roof came down it took out the sprinkler system, and a streak of fresh ice stretched from the wreckage into a side street.

Milo Tremblay works at the business and said that at first he heard what sounded like piles of snow or heavy footsteps hitting the roof. Once he was outside the building he saw the adjoining half of the structure buckle down the middle.

“That door just blew out,” he said, pointing to the jumble of metal, plywood and beams past the metal door frame. “And it was locked.”

Municipal officials have issued snow-clearing guidance for commercial and residential buildings in the city. The buildings at the highest risk are commercial with large, flat roofs built prior to 1990 and supported by those wooden trusses and gang-nail plates that help hold the wood together.

The collapses this season have outpaced last winter, when at least 16 roofs failed, including one that killed a woman.

“The Anchorage Fire Department would like to remind the community of the importance of clearing your roof of snow,” the department said. “Anchorage has received over 100″ of snow this season. If you have concerns about your home or commercial building, a structural engineer is the best person to conduct a building evaluation and determine risk and/or safety.”

Daily News reporter Zachariah Hughes contributed to this story.

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Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or

Loren Holmes

Loren Holmes is a staff photojournalist at the Anchorage Daily News. Contact him at