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Locked door keeps businessman safe from falling ceiling

The ground crews at Bemidji State University were overwhelmed with the number of trees downed; BSU employees stepped up, putting on work clothes to help with cleanup. Above, Robert Bollinger stacks branches along Birchmont Drive. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Cleanup crews from TK Outdoors pick up the metal roof from a building owned by Dan Ley Tuesday afternoon in the Bemidji Industrial Park. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI - Locking doors tends to keep the contents of a building safe from intruders, but for Dan Ley, the lock was the only thing that stopped him from getting squashed under the ceiling of his business during Monday night's storms.

"I remembered there was something inside that I really wanted to get so I was fumbling with my keys to get in the front door," Ley said. "As soon as I started to open the door the ceiling caved in. If that door had not been locked and I just walked right in I would have gotten pummeled."

Dan Ley and his brother, Scott Ley, owners of Ley's Painting, had been working in the building when the storm started Monday night. Initially the two were not fazed by the strong winds until they felt the building shaking.

"It felt like the building was going to fly right off the foundation," Dan Ley said. "I don't even know how to describe it, it didn't sound like a train; it was just super loud."

It was at that point when the two decided it was best that they get out of the building.

"It's so funny because my brother (Scott) was like, 'We got to get out of here,' acting like a Nancy," Ley said. "He was assessing the situation a little better than I was."

Ley said the building is split into two sections. The section that he said was going to be remodeled into the office is the side in which the ceiling caved in. The back end of the building is the shop, which still has a ceiling but the insulation is full of water, making the ceiling's structural integrity a bit scary.

The two brothers spent Tuesday picking up pieces of the roof, which had scattered around the Bemidji Industrial Park near their building. Nei Bottling, Ley's neighbor in the lot, took a hit, when a piece of the roof flew into the building's steel siding, right above the entrance near where some of the employees had been standing.

Ley's Painting moved into the building last October. Ley said the plan was to add an addition onto the back end within a year, but with the storm damage that may have to be pushed back.

"It has kind of been a rough night," Ley said. "Of course this is our busiest time, we are just so doggone busy with work lined up and I am not exactly sure how we are going to do this."

All things considered, Ley said he's grateful how it turned out.

"We both are OK and that is the thing," Ley said. "You know buildings can be rebuilt."