Galena Cave-In

By Roger McKinney

GALENA, Kan. - A mine from Galena's past on Monday claimed the Green Parrot, the town's last remaining bar.

"Every damn thing I own is in that building," said Mickey Morang, who ran the bar with his mother. Just then, a big chunk of the back portion of the building fell away.

"There it goes," Morang said. "Hell, there goes a lifetime of memories right there."

No injuries were reported in the collapse, which began about 7 a.m. The building at 319 Main St. was still standing Monday afternoon, but Galena police Chief Larry Delmont said the building would have to be condemned because it is structurally unsafe.

Delmont said the building dates to 1892. A sign on the building reads that the business was established in 1942. It was the town's only remaining drinking establishment and formerly was known as Nina's Green Parrot.

Delmont said around 5:15 p.m. Monday that a water leak had developed, causing some residents to lose water service. He said he didn't know how many people were affected.

Morang lived in an upstairs apartment on the back section of the building, and he said his mother, Opal Currey, lived in an apartment on the ground floor of the back section. Currey, 80, owns the building.

"I woke up about 7 o'clock," Morang said. "I thought somebody was throwing rocks at my window."

He said he went outside to investigate and discovered a lateral crack that had developed on the brick building, then he looked at the ground.

"I saw that big, massive hole," Morang said.

He said he woke up his mother and grabbed his dog. He sent his mother to stay with his sister.

Morang, 57, said he had just completed renovating the bar and was preparing for a 25th anniversary celebration of his mother's taking over ownership of the bar.

Morang said he missed his breakfast in the morning, and his blood-sugar level had started to drop before he was able to grab a bite to eat. Ambulance workers checked on him as he was starting to recover.

'Not the first time'

Delmont said that when the mine collapsed, it exposed a 4-inch, natural-gas main, creating a potential explosion risk for surrounding homes and businesses.

Joe Sinnett with Kansas Gas Service, the natural-gas utility, said that if the building had completely collapsed, it would have brought down high-voltage power lines, which could have caused the gas to explode. He said the gas line was capped between 10:30 and 11 a.m., eliminating that risk.

"We're very fortunate the situation happened the way it did," Sinnett said.

Sinnett said eight customers were affected by the shut-off. He said service was expected to be restored by Monday night.

Delmont said residents who live within two blocks of the collapse initially were asked to go elsewhere, but he declined to call it an evacuation.

Dale Oglesby, a former Galena mayor who has studied the mines, said there were more than 800 mine shafts inside Galena, so a situation like Monday's was bound to happen sooner or later.

"It's not the first time to happen, and it's not going to be the last," Oglesby said. He said it's the first time in many decades that a mine collapse has affected a building.

"Dealing with mine shafts is nothing new to Galena," Oglesby said. He said some past collapses have occurred on Seventh Street, in front of Joseph's Quick Shop and in front of Sonic.

Oglesby said the city has been involved with the state and federal governments to shore up or fill the old mine shafts so they wouldn't collapse.

"No one knew about this one," he said.

Precarious work

Larry Spahn and Mickey Center, environmental technicians with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Surface Mining Section, were on hand to advise officials.

"This appears to be a drift failure," Spahn said. "You don't know how far it's going to cave."

He said it differs from a shaft failure, which would remain isolated in a single location. He said a drift is like a big room underground without supports.

"The entire Tri-State Mining Area is plagued with things like this," Spahn said. "Telling where it's going to happen next is like winning the lottery."

Spahn said the cave-in had grown to the north of the initial collapse. Center said the dry conditions and low water levels probably contributed to the collapse, because water is sometimes all that supports the abandoned mines.

Spahn said that when the situation is stabilized, the hole probably will be filled with large pieces of rubble, then topped with clay, utility lines, then more clay and topsoil.

The Cherokee County Sheriff's Department was on the scene. The Crawford County Sheriff's Department brought its mobile command center for use by authorities. The Galena Fire Department and ambulance service were standing by at the scene. The American Red Cross set up a disaster-relief truck downtown.

A utility worker in the bucket of a bucket truck at 12:25 p.m. performed the delicate procedure of disconnecting cable-television lines from the building. The worker was performing the task on a pole that was in danger of falling into the collapse.

Jason Allison, Cherokee County emergency management director, said the working conditions for utility workers were precarious because the building and the ground were so unstable.

Amy Bass, spokeswoman for Empire District Electric Co. in Joplin, Mo., said electrical service for customers is not expected to be interrupted, unless it is a temporary outage.

Galena history

Asked to leave her house near the collapse, Jackie Rowden was visiting with Linda Watson, who lives down the street from her. Rowden said she went to the Green Parrot every New Year's Eve to eat black-eyed peas. She said she worked at the bar 39 years ago.

"We used to have five or six bars in town," Rowden said. "That's the only one we had left."

She said leaving her home for a few hours was a minor inconvenience.

"I'm missing my soap operas," she said.

Johnny Frye said he was notified at 8:30 a.m. that he needed to leave his house. He said he went to Joplin with his daughter.

"It wasn't a big inconvenience," Frye said.

When he returned at 1:30 p.m., a police officer told him he could return to his house, but that the situation could change. Frye said he was thinking of researching if there are any mine shafts under his house.

Richard Watson and Ben Bailey said they have patronized the bar on occasion.

"It's part of the history of Galena," Watson said.

They said they will have to drink at home now.

Morang didn't lose his sense of humor during the incident.

"I wonder if there's any beachfront property on this street I can buy," he said.

Wait and watch

Galena police Chief Larry Delmont said Monday afternoon that it was a matter of waiting for the Green Parrot building to collapse, because it was too dangerous to bring in any equipment to demolish it.

Trending Video