Dark IGA

The IGA Food Cache sits dark Sunday evening with an empty parking lot after a partial roof collapse. The only light scene is reflections in the windows from outside lights.

A partial roof collapse at the IGA Food Cache Sunday afternoon has closed the store indefinitely according to a post on the store’s Facebook page.

“It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that we must announce the long term temporary closure of the store. Unbelievably today our roof collapsed from the recent heavy snow and ice fall. At this time we are unable to give any answers on how long the closure will be. Unfortunately we do know it is not anytime soon. We are at the mercy of the weather, engineers, and insurance adjusters. Thank You to everyone that has reached out, we appreciate it. We hope to have answers before long and will update as we get them. We are grateful for our community and are devastated that we are leaving you without a grocery source. We are currently working on solutions to provide some source of groceries and hope to have one soon.”

No information is available as to the extent of the damage to the store. Pictures posted on Facebook that appear to have been taken through a window on the front of the store show some debris in the area near the registers and frozen food section of the store.

The only grocery store in Delta Junction, the store has been a staple in the community and the only public grocery store. Those with military commissary privileges have been and will continue to be able to shop at the Fort Greely Commissary.

Early Sunday evening the roof on the garage section of Buffalo Center Service also collapsed. The store is currently closed. According to Eileen Herman, who owns Buffalo Center Service, once the building is inspected, they will review how to proceed with the store. She said that there is some damage to the wall between the garage section of the building and the store area that needs to be evaluated before the store reopens. The gas pumps are currently open and expect to remain open.

Both are certainly a catastrophic event for the Larsons and Hermans, and all the individuals employed by the stores, but the IGA event is catastrophic for the community. For those that can’t access the commissary, they will now have to make alternative arrangements for food and basic household supplies.

Some nonfood items are carried by the local hardware stores, but food, especially fruits and vegetables, are not available elsewhere.

For some who will have to make other arrangements for food items, it will merely be an inconvenience to travel to Fairbanks to replace items obtained at the IGA, but for some, traveling to Fairbanks is difficult due to their financial or transportation status.

To address the crisis, a management team is being formed to help respond to the incident and the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been contacted to assist with efforts to management the incident.

Realizing the additional need for people to travel to Fairbanks, the EOC, which falls within the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, is reaching out to the Department of Transportation to review and consider changes to the winter maintenance on the Richardson Highway.

Currently the highway from Eielson south is a category two winter maintenance road and thus receives less winter maintenance than other roadways. Increased essential traffic on the roadway needs to have better travel conditions.

The team will immediately be looking for other options for supplying food locally using local resources and resources outside the local area.

No injuries have been reported in either event.

Roof collapse from snow loads is a real concern when snow loads are heavier than normal. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has information on how to determine snow loads. In a past article, Energy and Radon Specialist Art Nash explains how to research snow load.

The article says, according to guidance provided by UAF Professor Emeritus Rich Seifert in the Spring 2011 Alaska Building Science Newsletter the average roof has a snow load of 40 pounds per square foot.

To calculate the weight of snow requires knowing the depth of the snow and the water content of the snow. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL website provides that information. The closest station to Delta Junction shows a snow water content of 5.9 inches for this year as of 7 p.m. Sunday night.

According to Seifert, one inch of water weighs 5.2 pounds, therefor the 5.9 inches of snow water equivalent reported at the station weighs just short of 31 pounds per square foot.

Clearly short of the standard roof load, many other factors can influence the actual load weigh. Wind-blown snow can accumulate thus increasing the depth of snow on the roof in a particular spot. Different water content and snow amounts in different areas can also cause significant variations in the actual load weight. Different construction standards and material deterioration can change the load bearing capacity of a roof.

The Cooperative Extension Service article can be read on the Delta Wind website here.

According to Ed Plumb with the National Weather Service, the storm that likely caused the roof collapses should be ending Sunday night. A new weather system is expected to move through quickly Monday night into Tuesday and deliver another two to three inches of snow followed by a third system Tuesday night into Wednesday that could deliver upwards of six inches of snow. Temperatures are expected to rise to near 40 degrees Monday morning and the begin a gradual downward trend the rest of the week.

Road conditions are still hazardous, and a winter storm warning remains in effect until 6 a.m. Monday. Wind gusts up to 30 mph are expected overnight Sunday and into Monday.

Michael Paschall is the publisher of the Delta Wind and covers general news topics. He can be reached at news@deltawindonline.com.