As Pulaski County opened this week crawling out from under the snow and ice relentlessly dumped upon it in the last several days, many residents and business operators were cleaning up the mess the winter weather caused to their property.
However, there is that old chestnut of reassurance that one can take comfort in: It could have been worse.
“There was not a cave-in, and there were no roof collapses,” noted Carol Tucker, Somerset Mall Manager.
Indeed, that was the rumor making the rounds this weekend; a series of leaks at the mall became a full-fledged roof catastrophe. Tucker said she was asked about it by someone upon walking in at Wal-Mart.
That said, the mall did suffer its share of issues, as did a number of other locations around the county. For instance, the empty office facility next to T.J. Maxx in the Grand Central Place shopping center saw its walls buckle and ceiling fall downward.
In the mall, Belk, the longtime department store, was perhaps hit the hardest. It remained closed for leakage repairs on Monday after having to shut its doors this past weekend.
Comments from local store management were not given.
Belk wasn’t the only store in the mall affected — about six were, said Tucker — but the rest were able to stay open and serve customers. The worst damage was in the hallway leading to the mall’s management offices and restrooms, said Tucker.
“We had garbage cans sitting in the hall collecting the run-off,” she said. “... The damages were limited things, and have already been cleaned up. Not anything has hasn’t been repaired or can’t be repaired. It’s mostly water seeping in. I don’t even think ceiling tiles fell in most stores.”
She added that there had not even been any claims made for damaged merchandise as of Monday afternoon.
“Most of the stores (affected) were under the old part that had not been re-roofed yet,” said Tucker. “... The landlord is in the process of re-roofing large sections at a time. Some of these leaks occurred under the old room, and some were freakish, where we’re not sure how the water got it.”
Added Dave Nelson, vice president of Ershig Properties which manages the mall, “While the recent snow storm created some new roof leaks, as soon as weather warms up and snow melts we’ll repair the leaks.”
Leaks were caused on the roofs of many buildings due to the heavy weight of snow and ice becoming wetter and slushier during Saturday’s downpouring rains.
“It was terrible,” said Allen Adcock, general manager of the Somerset Wal-Mart store. “Like everybody else, we had a lot of snow and ice on the ceiling, and the freezing accumulation started melting, and then rain — it became a pond on everybody’s roof.”
Adcock said that there were 100 leaks around the store on Saturday, with lost roof inserts in the restrooms and photo developing area. “We lost quite a bit of product on the floor too,” said Adcock.
In all, it totaled “a few thousand dollars” in damages, said Adock. The important thing, however, is that customers were not at risk.
“It got a little scary, but we were in no danger,” he said. “We have a structural engineer on call who monitors the roof to make sure it’s safe. We were, or I would have close the store if it was even potentially unsafe.”
Adcock said it’s the first time he’s had to block off parts of the store due to water leakage. It’s now mostly fixed, though the roof will need a new rubber coating, he added.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said that government buildings have been affected by the melting snow, too. City Hall's flat roof was damaged, causing some flooding to the building and damage to some property inside.
Also, the office of City Attorney Carrie Wiese had to be evacuated because of flooding that led to a malfunction in the building's gas furnace.
Girdler said that watching the melting snow and the possibility of more bad weather toward the end of the week, which is complicating the city from getting back to normal. “It's going to be next week before we can say that everything will get back to normal,” he said.
Despite this, there are signs of improvement, he said. The city resumed picking up garbage Monday, though they are holding off on picking up recycling because it is difficult to get recycling bins to the street.
Even though the melting snow is causing havoc with roofs, the streets have been relatively free of flooding because city workers have been out checking and clearing debris from storm drains, Girdler said.
Tiger Robinson, Pulaski County Public Safety Director, noted that carports and gutters on buildings and residences around the county suffered damage from the same conditions, as well as some burst pipes. The Fish-N-SKi on West Ky. 80 lost a canopy, he said.
On the plus side, there have been remarkably few injury accidents on the road, even with the hazardous driving conditions all week long, none of them significant, noted Robinson.
He did advised drivers to remember to stay careful and alert, particularly on the Cumberland Parkway headed toward Russell Springs, where rockslides are a threat.
“When it freezes and thaws and freezes and thaws, (water inside rocks) expands and it causes a slide,” he said. “The state highway (personnel have) done a good job trying to prevent them, but with the weather like it’s been lately, it’s almost a given we’re going to get one.”
The Somerset-Pulaski County Rescue Squad and local Hazmat team worked to keep citizens safe throughout the rough week. Ryan Hughes of the Rescue Squad said the agency was the only one to keep truck on the road 24 hours a day all week long, transporting patients to needed medical services, bringing them medications, assisting stranded motorists, transporting hospital staff, and jobs like that.
“Our responders did an amazing job,” he said. “I have truly been humbled at the sacrifices these folks have made to help this community.”