PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A block of East Carson Street is shut down over fears a building that investigators believe was struck by lightning could fully collapse onto the road.
The road is closed between 16th and 17th streets in both directions. Police say they made the decision to close it because it’s a public safety issue. With more rain on the way, they fear the building will collapse onto itself and into the busy roadway.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Man Who Survived COVID-19 Undergoes Transplant After Virus Resurfaces And Attacks Heart
“I’m not an engineer but if you look at that and draw your own conclusions, if water pooled in that — in that membrane — it could pull those buildings down,” said Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Commander John Fisher.
Because of this collapse, Public Safety says traffic restrictions won’t be coming to the South Side for the time being. Normally, East Carson Street would become one-way between S. 10th and S. 18th starting at 9:30 p.m. Those changes are part of Public Safety’s efforts to stem violence and control the “dangerous and untenable” South Side crowds that followed the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
But Public Safety says a large crane has been staged to begin the demolition of the building, and since traffic is being diverted around the block, the traffic restrictions won’t be in place. Demolition is scheduled to begin Saturday, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. The work is expected to take weeks.
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“The experts will start shoring the buildings on both sides of the building that collapsed to try to make sure we can potentially save those buildings,” Hissrich said.
The city said some businesses on the block between 16th and 17th streets will be impacted by the closures. But the city said it is doing everything to make sure people can still access those businesses.
Still, some businesses worry the closures will impact their bottom line.
“It’s bad enough with all these other crowd control efforts. Now we got this,” said Daniel McSwiggen, the owner of Cambodican Kitchen.
“We have businesses down here, and we still need foot traffic. That is the most important thing,” said Edward Schneider, the owner of Ethik.
Officials say the upper floor of the building partially collapsed in the 1600 block of East Carson Street around 8 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses said the collapse sounded like a bomb going off.READ MORE: Toddler Taken To Hospital With Gunshot Wound, Police Investigating
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The bowing roof on the partially collapsed building worries Pittsburgh Public Safety officials. Police say because the black roofing material connects to the buildings on either side, if the center building collapses on its own, it could bring them both down with it.
Police fear impending storms will only worsen the situation.
“I’m sure with the weather we’ve been having lately, that could certainly play a role in helping to bring this down, which we don’t want to do. We’d rather bring it down in a controlled environment instead of just letting it collapse on Carson Street,” said Commander Fisher.
Surveillance video caught the moment the top half of the building came crashing down, bricks just barely missing a passerby.
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The building is home to the Swirl Penguin ice cream shop, which had just opened a few months ago. The Rex Theater next door was also damaged.
“The building’s owned actually by a woman who lives in D.C., a doctor who lives in D.C. I have not reached her yet, I don’t know if she has more to offer than what I know,” said City of Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus.
Investigators with Public Safety said it was likely a lightning strike that caused the partial collapse. They were still on scene Friday afternoon, assessing the damage and trying to determine the official cause of the accident.MORE NEWS: Suspect Sought In Penn Hills Shooting That Injured 17-Year-Old Boy
Public Safety says there’s no timeline for when the demolition will be done.