Rio Grande, Newport Plaza roof damaged by powerful winds

CINCINNATI -- A powerful wind storm that ripped through the Midwest Sunday tore off part of the roof of a Newport, Ky. shopping center while customers were inside.

The wind gusts, which were measured at upwards of 75 mph in some parts of the region, mangled a front portion of the roof at Newport Plaza at about 7 p.m. That part of the roof then partially collapsed onto itself.

"The structure on the inside we're not too concerned about. It's mainly the canopy we're worried about," said Capt. Matthew Pleiman with the Newport Fire Department.

The parapet, which sits above seven businesses, collapsed onto the canopy and roof of the building, causing a few pieces of ceiling to be knocked free and fall inside several commercial spaces.

CLICK HERE for all the damage reports from around the Tri-State, which consists mostly of downed trees and power lines.

Concerns over the shopping center's structural integrity led the Newport Fire Department to evacuate two businesses -- a Radio Shack store and the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant. They were the only two businesses in the damaged portion of the building open at the time.

Planet Pet and Plaza Barbers are two of the other businesses that were affected at the Carothers Road location.

"It was really intense," recalled Jay Torres, a server at Rio Grande. "I was looking out the window, and then I saw the leaves and wind start moving and that's when I felt a shockwave go through my body and it shook the walls like it was paper."

"(Pieces of) the roof fell in different parts at once. Luckily there wasn't anyone at the tables at the time," said Torres, who admitted to being scared "pretty bad" at the time.

PHOTOS: Severe weather blows through the Tri-State

While no one was injured by the falling pieces of ceiling, there were fears the strong winds that blew through the Tri-State for several hours Sunday would cause the entire roof to come down, according to Pleiman 

The fire chief said there were concerns that the building's electrical wiring was damaged by the partial roof collapse. Pleiman said faulty wiring could have caused a fire.

A representative for the owner of the property, the company Kentucky Properties, said a structural engineer will be at the site Monday morning to assess the damage and provide an estimate for repairs.

The spokesperson said none of the businesses in the damaged part of the building will open for business Monday. A timetable for when they will reopen has not been determined.

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