A mall was evacuated on Long Island, N.Y. after inclement weather from winter storm Nemo caused roof leaks in over 25 stores. Smith Haven Mall, the most easterly mall on the island, was cleared out Monday by emergency personnel.
The mall evacuation began at about 3 p.m. after authorities feared that the facility's high roof could collapse, injuring the shoppers below. Winter storm Nemo had brought over 3 feet of snow to Suffolk County, bringing leaks to over two dozen of the mall's 140 stores.
New York & Company was the first store to report water coming in from their roof at about 2 p.m. Initially, they simply called authorities and closed the surrounding stores as well. However, the decision was soon made that the mall had to be cleared.
One store looked "almost as if there was an open ceiling and it was raining," Smithtown Building Department Director John Bongino told the Associated Press. Some areas of the mall's roof had snow drifts up to 7 feet high.
15 police and fire departments responded to the evacuation call, assisting customers and store employees to safety. The entire procedure took about an hour, according to Paul Llobell, Suffolk County's deputy fire coordinator. No injuries were reported during the event.
The evacuation was a precautionary measure, but after Saturday's snowstorm and Sunday's heavy rain collapsed roofs of a bowling alley and a home in the area, authorities took no chances.
Although Smith Haven Mall is smaller than Roosevelt Field Mall or Green Acres Mall, it serves many communities, such as the Hamptons, North Fork, Lake Grove, and Stony Brook, which houses the large SUNY Stony Brook University. The shopping center opened in 1969, and has 1,400,000 square feet of space inside.
It is currently unknown when exactly the mall will be reopened to the public. A structural engineer must come in and clear the building for structural safety before customers are allowed back inside, according to Bongino.