EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WCCO) – The canopy above gas pumps at a Holiday Station Store in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, gave way on Sunday, sending heavy snow and sheet metal crashing down.
While shoveling snow to keep gas pumps clear is not uncommon, staff members at the Holiday Station Store off Birch Street were feverishly scooping piles Sunday afternoon due to the roof collapse.
"Our cooperative has been operating these stores for more than 30 years and this is the first one in our history," said Mike Buck, CEO of Mega Co-Op, which operates the gas station. "It was a little scary. My first concern was that we had customers under that canopy."
Police say around 12:30 p.m., a driver of a pickup truck was pumping gas when he heard a rumbling noise. He ducked next to his truck as the canopy collapsed. Police say the truck's roof somewhat shielded him, taking the brunt of the fall.
The driver then crawled to safety as bystanders and staff helped him into the store. The police report states he had cuts on his face and told officers he had excruciating pain in his left armpit area. The driver was taken to Mayo Hospital.
Buck was thankful the driver survived and knows the situation could have been much worse.
"To only find one car in a station that normally two to three to six cars in the area, I was pleased to find that," he said. "And to find that I had no team members out there in the lot, that was another big concern of ours to have someone standing in that with a shovel in hand. Could have been a whole different story."
Saturday's heavy, wet snow added more weight to roofs already piled high with powder.
A steel garage in Plainview, Minnesota, caved in with several vintage cars inside, the Post Bulletin reported.
In Winona, the roof collapsed above the pool at the Holiday Inn Express around 3:30 a.m.
Buck said the canopies at his gas stations are regularly inspected to check for weak spots and says the company will work to figure out why this one gave way.
"This was the consequence of a lot of snow and a lot of warm, cold, rain, snow all mixed together," he said.
Although it's possible for customers to use the pumps without a canopy overhead, Buck said they want to inspect them first because some of the pumps might have been damaged. He said an additional inspection will happen for the canopies at Mega Co-Op's other gas stations as well.
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