MILLINOCKET, Maine — Heavy snow and ice probably caused the sudden, almost explosive collapse of the roof of Katahdin Pins ‘n Cues late Sunday.
No injuries were reported, Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Malcolm said Monday.
Blocked roof drains likely contributed to a structural failure at the one-story bowling alley at 75 Penobscot Ave. The sudden buckling was powerful enough to fire debris like shrapnel across the street and through the windows of an empty storefront that adjoins The Scootic Inn, Malcolm said.
“Something inside the building let go,” Malcolm said Monday.
Much of the building remains standing though askew. The collapse was reported shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday. Utility workers disconnected electricity to the building and firefighters blocked Penobscot Avenue until Public Works Department workers cleared debris from the front of the bowling alley.
Part of a back wall leans against a nearby building, which is undamaged, Malcolm said.
The bowling alley, which had 12 candlepin lanes, a five-table pool hall, ice cream window and arcade, had been closed for a few years. It is unsafe and will have to be razed, Malcolm said.
When reached in Massachusetts, building owner Robert Benjamin said he hadn’t visited Pins ‘n Cues since the summer and didn’t know what his next steps would be.
“I’m trying to make phone calls on it right now,” Benjamin said Monday.
The roof collapse was easily the worst damage reported in northern Maine during the blizzard, which forecasters said would be the worst of the winter of 2016-17. The storm dumped about 2 feet of snow onto Millinocket as of noon Monday and was expected to continue in the midcoast and Down East regions through Monday night.
The collapse of the roof was almost as silent as it was sudden.
Resident Ray Cote said he was in his driveway at 21 Penobscot Ave., about 100 yards from the bowling alley, preparing his car to deliver morning newspapers, when he heard “a big whoosh.”
“Someone called 911 and said they heard an explosion, but in my opinion, it was more like an implosion because of how the front and back of the building are,” the 41-year-old Cote said late Sunday. “I believe that it was caused by the weight of the snow and ice” on the roof.
“That building is gone,” said Millinocket resident Jennifer Murray, who lives about three blocks away and came to the scene minutes after firefighters received the 911 call.
Cellphone camera pictures by residents who arrived after the collapse show most of the front and back of the building knocked out. Large cinder blocks, sections of walls and other debris lined the sidewalk in front of the alleys on the front side of the building closest to the Blue Ox Saloon.
The long side of the building perpendicular to Penobscot Avenue remained standing but was undulated, as were portions of the front of the building closest to the U.S. post office and the town office, Murray said.
At the time of the collapse, Penobscot Avenue and its adjoining streets were apparently deserted — a good thing, Murray said.
“It is very fortunate that it happened when most everyone is home. Normally there would be people out walking. The bar [the Blue Ox] would have been open. I don’t think it was,” Murray said.
How much Sunday night’s snowstorm contributed to the collapse was unclear. The third storm to hit the state in less than a week, Sunday’s blizzard hadn’t been very long underway in Millinocket when the building collapsed, witnesses said.
Benjamin, who bought the building in 2009, is responsible for razing the rest of the structure, Malcolm said.