A rockslide struck a grocery store in Alaska causing severe structural damage.
The slide struck the Tatsuda's IGA store located in Ketchikan, a city in southeastern Alaska, on February 27, 2020. Currently, the business has about 25 employees.
The failure occurred during the night, and, fortunately, there were no victims. The alarm of the building was set off and the security company alerted emergency crews that rushed at the scene at around 1:00 am. The vulnerable products were moved to refrigerators the morning following the collapse.
The rockslide also swept away trees and vegetation that hit the building. The framework of the structure was highly affected as many ceiling beams failed and a wall collapsed. Moreover, windows broke and the sprinkler system was destroyed.
The structure suffered critical damage and owners stated that it is not profitable for them to repair the building and reopen the facility. “Well, I personally think it’s very likely that we’re out of business, simply because five years ago, we did a major remodel, and we still owe a lot of money on that,” Bill Tatsuda, co-owner of the store, stated.
The causes of the rock slide have not been clarified yet. According to Dennis Landwehr, a scientist for the U.S. Forest Service, such rock slides occur due to the high inclination of the area's slopes and the intense rainfalls which struck the region during the winter. Mr. Landwehr cannot be certain but he suspects that freeze-thaw cycles have eroded the bedrock above the store leading to instabilities. Freeze-thaw is the process during which water enters rock cracks and as its temperature decreases, it freezes and expands applying pressure to the cracks that break further apart.
Mr. Tatsuda said that he has never witnessed such a massive slide in his 46-year experience. “Nothing to this scale. We’ve had smaller rock slides that didn’t really damage the building much at all. But this one here is major, major structural and equipment damage,” he mentioned.
The store hosted a family business that has been operating for almost 100 years. During its long-time history, the business had to make a new start three times, two due to fires that damaged the building and one during World War II when Japanese Americans (including the Tatsuta family) were detained.