08/28/11 — Part of Berkeley Mall roof caves in at Belk atrium during storm

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Part of Berkeley Mall roof caves in at Belk atrium during storm

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 28, 2011 1:50 AM

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Berkeley Mall suffered a major collapse in the atrium section of the shopping center Saturday afternoon during high winds and rain associated with Hurricane Irene. Several inches of water spread out from the hole in several directions.

An apparent straight-line wind is being blamed for the collapse of the roof at Berkeley Mall during Hurricane Irene on Saturday.

Goldsboro Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra explained that about 1 p.m., the parapet wall around Belk on the Spence Avenue side of the mall, which stands about 10 feet above the main roof, appeared to have been struck by a strong, straight-line wind, which knocked the top 4 to 5 feet of the wall onto the main roof, collapsing the steel beam joists and the roof deck between the mall opening to Belk and the glass atrium at the main Berkeley Boulevard entrance.

Cianfarra did not have an estimate as to how strong the wind might have been, only that it had to have been a "burst" because the sustained winds and even most of the gusts Saturday should not have been strong enough to push the wall over.

The damage, however, has continued to grow, said mall general manager, Jan Luttrell, and as of about 5 p.m. Saturday, stretched from Bath and Body Works, Game Stop and the former Verizon store, past Belk to Daughtry Jewelers.

Ms. Luttrell said the collapse was reported by the mall's chief of security, who happened to be standing near the center at the time. No injuries were reported.

"He looked up and saw the ceiling coming down," she said. "And it's still continuing to drop stuff. It just keeps growing."

The mall, which was closed because of Hurricane Irene, is expected to be closed today and likely into the week -- "until further notice," Ms. Luttrell said.

"We might have to make some extensive repairs, but I don't expect them (management company Faison and Associates) to close it down.

Cianfarra explained that engineers with the city and the mall would be examining the building today and that a decision would be made about its structural integrity.

"It may be a situation where we can open up part of the mall," he said.

"Until we can make sure it's safe, the mall will remain closed, but anything we can do to help them get back open, we're going to do," Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan said.

But the back portion of the building is likely to remain closed for some time.

Ms. Luttrell said store owners needing to take stock of possible damage might be allowed to begin re-entering the mall, but only on an individual basis.

Still, that was good news for 20/20 Vision office manager Lori Howell who drove down to the mall immediately after hearing about the collapse.

"I was freaked out," she said. "We've had a leak and the front of our store is all glass, and all I could see was the front shattered, and we have a lot of equipment in there."

When she arrived, she was told she couldn't go in, but that her store, which is slightly down toward Sears and on the Berkeley side across from Daughtry Jewelers appeared to be unharmed.

"That's good news," she said. "Hopefully we're good, but I'm very anxious to get in tomorrow and make sure."