Wind huffs and puffs, nearly blows St. Helens building down

ST. HELENS, Ore. - Gusts of wind are suspected of causing an old building here to begin to crumble, forcing people out of their homes next door.

The building everyone's worried about is right next to the waterfront. It is vacant but there are apartments in the building next to it. Residents there have been evacuated to a Red Cross shelter as a precaution in case the whole thing collapses.

Bricks fell from near the top of the vacant building at 11 a.m. Monday, leaving a pile of them on the sidewalk. A crack in the building has also developed near the roof.

The building has been cordoned off.

"We just don't want anybody at night walking through and having some brick fall on them," said Brian Don, a St. Helens building official.

Several folks spoke about some close calls earlier in the day.

One woman pulled into a parking lot when bricks started falling to the ground. She put her car in reverse to avoid getting hit. Other people heard a cracking noise and saw bricks fall.

Now, town leaders and locals are simply watching, waiting and wondering if building inspectors can get here before windy weather finishes a job it's suspected of starting.

"We've just had these big wind gusts lately, last couple of days," said Don. "And it has just moved it, moved it, moved it and obviously that's what I think pushed it over."

The town's building manager says it is an unreinforced masonry building that's over a hundred years old. It's just in really bad shape.

They're mainly concerned about the front faade coming down, not the entire building.

They don't know what that could do to the building next door so they're being extra cautious. An engineer will examine things Tuesday.