On Feb. 23, a portion of the third-floor parking garage collapsed near the Trader Joe’s store at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale, leaving both shoppers and store employees scrambling for answers.
No injuries are being reported as a result of the collapse that happened around 12:15 p.m. Thursday, North Shore Fire Rescue Chief Robert Whitaker said at a news conference held shortly after the incident.
“I don’t know why (the garage collapsed), but it appears snow would have some likely impact,” the chief said. “Piling snow on a property, especially if it’s elevated, probably not a good idea.”
Glendale Police, North Shore Fire Rescue and Milwaukee Fire were the first on the scene, according to Assistant Chief North Shore Fire Rescue Dan Tiyk.
Milwaukee Fire responded outside of its normal jurisdiction as it is a part of the regional Heavy Urban Rescue Team (HURT) team. The “HURT team” is compromised of various first responders from across the Milwaukee-metro area that respond in a time of emergency.
The two vehicles that were trapped under the snow and concrete chunks were removed on Saturday, Tiyk said during an interview with the Daily Reporter Monday.
According to Tiyk, the Glendale Police Department was in communication with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office who then contacted OSHA. However, since no criminal activity is suspected and there were no injuries, the matter will now be handled by Bayshore Mall Town Center.
Bayshore Town Center has taken over the investigation, Sgt. Galbraith with Glendale Police confirmed Monday during an interview with The Daily Reporter. The Daily Reporter reached out to Bayshore Town Center security, but they declined to comment and deferred to Bayshore Town Center officials who partially commented, declining to comment on a number of questions.
The parking lot structure was built in 2005-2006, according to Bayshore Town Center officials who are working with structural engineers and designers to determine the cause of the collapse. Officials at the news conference Thursday seemed to think snow either caused or contributed to the collapse. Video and photographs of the collapse show what appears to be quite a bit of snow falling with pieces of concrete. However, looks can be deceiving.
Wisconsin clearly has received significant snow falls over the past 18 years since the parking structure had been build. So why now after nearly two-decades did part of the garage collapse? According to the National Weather Service, snow likely wasn’t the only factor.
“As far as the snow is concerned there wasn’t much. We had quite a warm stretch,” proceeding the collapse, said Cameron Miller a Meteorologist National Weather Service.
“We’ve had this discussion in our office when we heard about (the incident at Bayshore) on the news. (Milwaukee’s North Shore) received 3.3 inches sleet Wednesday, just before the incident. Sleet weighs significantly more than snow. Snow is mostly comprised of air, but sleet is a lot more compact because it’s basically a sheet of ice. With sleet, you basically have more weight than you’ve had with snow. … It was likely the combination with the weight of snow and sleet, that probably contributed to the collapse,” Miller said.
The amount of sleet we had was fairly uncommon, he added.
Tivk said that the building and engineers who designed the structure have been on the scene and are investigating.
As investigators continue to look into the cause, The Daily Reporter is looking into regulations. In Wisconsin, although buildings go through fire inspections annually, parking garages aren’t checked as often, fire officials said.
Wisconsin is no stranger to slabs of falling concrete in parking garages. As previously reported by the Daily Reporter, back in 2010, a 15-year-old Jared Kellner was killed and two others were injured. A Milwaukee County jury ruled four years later that the insurance company for the firm that installed the panel owed $39 million in connection with the incident.
Parking structures are considered public buildings within state statutes 101.01 (12) and are therefore governed by the Commercial Building Code. Current statute requires building inspections when a building is constructed or altered. There is no requirement for public buildings to be inspected after construction unless it is altered or if there has been a complaint about the building’s safety, according to Wisconsin Rep. Darrin Madison.
“While there are additional challenges to inspecting most public buildings after construction is completed, parking structures are more like bridges and dams in the sense that the structural integrity is usually visible and therefore easier to inspect. Under current law bridges (s. 84.17) are required to be inspected by the DOT or local government every 2-4 years depending on circumstances and dams (s. 31.19) have required inspection intervals and responsibility that vary by dam classification. Following this precedent, one solution we are looking into would be to classify parking structures in a new manner that requires inspection periodically after construction,” Madison added.