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Panels falling from Fargo Radisson create public safety concerns

The city closed part of Fifth Street North on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, to safeguard people from exterior panels falling off the Radisson Hotel due to high winds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 2
The city closed part of Fifth Street North on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, to safeguard people from exterior panels falling off the Radisson Hotel due to high winds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 2

FARGO – High winds Tuesday and Wednesday ripped off or damaged a number of exterior panels on the west side of the downtown Radisson Hotel, prompting city officials to close nearby streets to keep drivers and pedestrians safe.

It’s not the first time high winds have caused such damage at the Radisson. In April 2015, a couple of exterior panels were damaged by winds that blew through the area.

Bruce Taralson, Fargo’s administrator of building inspections, said having exterior panels detach from buildings is unusual and may be due to the age of the structure. Ground was broken for the $9.4 million, 18-story building in March 1984, and it opened Aug. 1, 1985.

This week, the wind tore the heavy panels from the 14th, 17th and 18th floors and appeared to loosen others, Taralson said.

No injuries were reported due to any falling panels or debris from the Radisson, officials said.

Gusts topping 50 mph Wednesday fueled concerns that more panels could be loosened and fall, Fire Marshal Ryan Erickson said.

“Are there others? We feel there definitely is the potential for that. That’s why we wanted the closure in place” until they can be checked, Erickson said.

Exterior panels are being fabricated and inspections and repairs to the building should start next week, city and hotel management officials said.

On Wednesday, Fifth Street North from Second Avenue to Third Avenue and parts of Second Avenue east and west of the intersection with Fifth Street were closed to traffic and will remain closed through at least early next week until repairs are made, city officials said.

WDAY-TV Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler said peak wind gusts reported at Fargo’s Hector International Airport were from the west at 51 mph on Tuesday, and from the south at 54 mph as of 2:28 p.m. Wednesday. However, Wheeler cautioned that wind speeds recorded over an airport runway can be far different than those experienced downtown. Plus, downtown buildings cause winds to swirl, he said.

Erickson said it was best for all concerned to focus on safety. “If you have something falling from over 100 feet in the air” there is a potential for injury or severe injury, he said.

Repairs can’t be done until next week, Taralson said. A large crane is needed to do the work, and one won’t be available until Tuesday, he said.

Todd Troyer is director of operations for First Call Hospitality, which manages the hotel through the end of December.

Troyer said the hotel is responsible for the 13th floor on down. However, the higher floors are owned by other firms. The damage as of Wednesday afternoon was on the 14th, 17th and 18th floors.

Troyer said his firm is coordinating the repairs because they have worked with contractors in the past on building issues. He said an engineering firm will be hired to check the building for any problems.

Troyer said replacement panels have been ordered and the hotel is working with the city to mitigate any risks. “We sure don’t want anyone getting hurt,” he said.

The inner doors on the west-side main entrance to the Radisson were closed Wednesday morning. Entry to the hotel can be made through the building’s parking ramp or the skyway system.

At least one other neighboring business, the U.S. Bank branch just west of the Radisson, was affected by the street closure.

Bank spokeswoman Jennifer Fredrick said the bank’s lobby and walk-up ATM will be accessible 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday through the main west entrance.

The drive-up banking area and drive-up ATM will be closed until the streets are re-opened. The bank’s south entrance will also be closed, Fredrick said.