Rock slide severely damages Ketchikan grocery store

Products are strewn across the parking lot as Ketchikan Fire Marshal Andrea Buchanan walks toward Tatsuda’s IGA to inspect the building’s interior Thursday. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

An early-morning rock slide Thursday may put a Ketchikan grocery out of business. No one was hurt in the rockfall that hit Tatsuda’s IGA, but the building was seriously damaged.

“The building inspector and fire marshal just went in and took pictures,” said co-owner Bill Tatsuda around 10 a.m. Thursday. “And it’s really bad — we’re not going to be open for quite a while, if at all ever.”

Ketchikan Fire Marshal Andrea Buchanan said the grocery store’s fire alarm went off just before 1 a.m.

“What we had was a significant rock slide,” she told KRBD at the scene. “The rocks impacted the west wall of the building, pushing the wall in and affecting the structural membranes and components that give stability to the building.”

To make matters worse, Buchanan said, the slide broke pipes and activated the store’s sprinkler system. She said that likely caused water damage beyond the slide itself.

By 9 a.m., firefighters were still surveying the damage from above with a ladder truck.

The grocery store’s cliff-side wall took the brunt of the damage from Thursday’s slide. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Trees that had fallen from the cliffs above were sticking out of the building’s roof. Strewn around the parking lot, exposed, pink insulation sat next to grocery store items — unopened soda boxes, packages of bread, bags of chips.

At this point, officials say they don’t know what caused the slide. Tatsuda said he’s never seen anything like it in the store’s nearly 46 years on downtown Ketchikan’s Stedman Street.

“Nothing to this scale. We’ve had smaller rock slides that didn’t really damage the building much at all,” he said. “But this one here is major, major structural and equipment damage.”

Buchanan later said that she and building officials were able to inspect the grocery store that morning.

“We’ve come up with a plan to be able to brace and shore up portions of the building up that safely will allow Tatsuda’s staff to go in and remove commodities for salvage,” she said.

Back at the scene, Tatsuda said this may be the end of his family business.

“Well, I personally think it’s very likely that we’re out of business, simply because five years ago, we did a major remodel, and we still owe a lot of money on that,” he said.

He said he’s not sure whether insurance will cover the damage.

He also said he’s glad the store was closed and nobody was inside when the rocks fell.

“So, no injuries, which is good,” Tatsuda said. “A person can always start over if you’re still alive.”

Officials said they aren’t sure when salvage efforts will get underway. In the meantime, residents in this part of town will likely have to travel nearly 2 miles to the nearest supermarket for groceries.