SUTHERLIN — Tuffie Curtis Jr. of Sutherlin thought losing power in his temporary home at Techbuilt Inc. was a challenge already, until he heard a sound and discovered snow had brought down half of the building.
Techbuilt is one of the most notable buildings to sustain damage from this week’s storms. Others that were damaged include the cafeteria at Douglas High School, greenhouses at Norm Lehne Garden and Orchards and Kruse Farms, and a barn at Blue Heron Vineyards.
“I was there when part of it collapsed on Monday,” Curtis said. “I wasn’t expecting the building to collapse. It scared me when it made that big of a racket.”
Techbuilt, which builds roof trusses, was registered with the Oregon secretary of state’s office in 1991, almost 27 years ago. Curtis and Sutherlin Emergency Manager Dennis Riggs said the building has been around for at least 30 years.
“(The trusses) weren’t built by us,” Curtis said. “They held for 30 years.”
Techbuilt owner Rick Baird could not be reached for comment. Curtis said Baird didn’t know about the building yet because he didn’t have power in the Elkton area, but Curtis had contacted all but one of his coworkers and let them know what happened.
“He doesn’t know yet because we can’t get ahold of him,” Curtis said. “He’s not going to be a happy camper.”
At Kruse Farms in Melrose, a long greenhouse crumpled like a toilet paper roll.
“Looks like we were gifted another spring project … That snow was just too much for the structure,” Kruse Farms said in a post on its Facebook page.
Norm Lehne Garden and Orchards lost a “hoop house” greenhouse to the snow around midnight on Sunday after posting about it on Facebook page.
None of the business owners nor the school district were available for comment.
Not only does Curtis have no job or a home now, most of his possessions are buried under the rubble.
Curtis walked back home to find the other half of the building collapsed and buried his room in the rubble. He had been living in the break room on a cot for about a year. He said Baird let him sleep in the break room as an alternative to sleeping in a tent while he looked for an affordable apartment.
“My room is still intact with all my stuff in it,” Curtis said. “I couldn’t crawl in there.”
From the outside of the building, it isn’t discernible where the break room is or where a person could crawl through safely.
He walked five blocks to the Sutherlin Community Center after the Sutherlin Fire Department told him it was open and he stayed there for the day to keep warm and wait until his handful of coworkers returned along with the power.
He sat in the center on Wednesday dressed in a black hoodie, white athletic shorts and loafers. He said the only other shoes he has are tennis shoes, no boots. His backpack sat nearby.
“My coworker crawled in to get the basic necessities, so I’ve got clothes and my wallet,” Curtis said. “I’m trying to stay warm.”
Thursday morning, the temperature dropped to 29 degrees.
The center is open sporadically as the city has resources so he’s been in and out since Monday. When the center closed up for the night on Monday, Sutherlin Emergency Manager Dennis Riggs said his sources were expecting the power to come back on that night.
“We had just decided to open Monday morning and we didn’t know the status of the electricity,” Riggs said.
He said the center didn’t have the resources to have people stay the night on Monday and he couldn’t let Curtis stay.
Tuffie worked at Techbuilt for about six years and said Baird had been considering retirement so he thinks the building collapse will be the final straw.
He’s been staying at the community center whenever it’s open but when everyone else gets power and the center closes as a warming center, he won’t have a home or a job to go back to.
“I’m worried because I don’t have a place to stay tonight,” Curtis said. “No idea.”