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Roof of Columbia music venue Merriweather Post Pavilion collapses

The pavilion roof at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia collapsed on Friday night, said Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for the music venue. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)

The roof of Columbia music venue Merriweather Post Pavilion collapsed early Saturday morning, possibly because of strong winds, officials said.

The roof that covers the amphitheater’s stage and seating was in the midst of being raised by about 20 feet over a period of months, part of a larger renovation project at the amphitheater. It was near its final position when the collapse occurred, leaving the venue’s stage standing surrounded by wreckage.

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No one was injured, a Howard County fire spokeswoman said.

The collapse occurred as a strong cold front passed through the region, but the National Weather Service received no reports of severe wind gusts, meteorologist Kevin Witt said. The strongest gust recorded overnight at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was about 45 mph, at about 2 a.m.

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James Rouse needed something big to attract attention to his vision in Howard County in the mid-1960s. His "new town" had garnered quite a bit of media attention, but he made sure there would be a lot of traffic to the site with the second public building — preceded only by the Exhibit Center — to open in Columbia: Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Seth Hurwitz, operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion and chairman of I.M.P., the facility’s owner, suggested in statement that wind was a factor.

“Last night, in the middle of our months-long roof raising operation, the winds of fate prevailed and decided that, instead of simply raising the roof, we should just go ahead and build a new one,” he said. “Was not our decision, but the bright side is all the money we save on imploding.”

The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission said the cause would be investigated.

“Until a complete investigation has been completed, the precise cause of this accident cannot be known,” the commission said in a statement. “That investigation is commencing as soon as possible, and in the meantime, the team at Merriweather will begin assessing next steps for the project.”

The roof will be rebuilt, and the venue expects to start its 2018 season as planned, said Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for I.M.P. So far, the only 2018 event listed on the venue’s website is a performance by country duo Sugarland on July 14.

In 2017, Merriweather Post Pavilion celebrated its 50th anniversary as it continued work on its $55 million renovation project.

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