WEST TOWN — The salt kept inside Morton Salt's huge storage facility along the Kennedy Expy. was piled too high, city officials said, causing a side wall to blow out and an avalanche of salt to pour out.
The salt buried at least 11 Acuras owned or being serviced by the McGrath Acura dealership next door.
Nobody was hurt — although McGrath workers said they had to run when they saw and heard bricks falling from the neighboring wall Tuesday afternoon.
Acura's general manager said they were in the process of calling customers with vehicles buried under the road salt.
"Most of them are kind of surprised when we say we will send you pictures and that you can see it on the news tonight," General Manager Noble Jones said.
In a statement, Chicago Department of Buildings Director of Public Affairs Mimi Simon said "a preliminary inspection determined that salt inside the building structure was piled too high causing the exterior wall to fail."
Jones said Morton has reached out to the dealership. The salt company will inspect their building and work with the dealership to clean the spill.
"We hope to have the salt cleared out by Saturday or Sunday, and then we'll speak with them to see what needs to happen to fix the hole in the wall," Jones said.
McGrath employees who were working in the area said the bricks started falling slowly before an eventual "boom" when the brick exterior collapsed.
"Initially we ran and panicked because we thought the rest of the wall was going to come down with it, and then after a while we snuck back out and took a peek at it," Jones said.
@CFDMedia pic.twitter.com/0UbscPfb1V— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) December 30, 2014
No reports of injury. Cars affected from Acura dealership pic.twitter.com/cPZM3iPYhi— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) December 30, 2014
"I heard a big boom," said 22-year-old Bernardo Macedo. "It sounded like a car accident, then the bricks from the top of the wall started to come down on top of the cars and the salt started to pour out."
Jones said the extreme weight of the brick and salt meant the cars were all likely totaled.
"Right now we are just trying to figure out who are the customers and get in touch we them so they don't find out about this at the last minute," Jones said. "I just couldn't imagine this happening to us on this particular day going into the end of the year. It's a busy day for us and usually we are more worried about selling cars than saving cars."
One of the customers, Michael Cristofano, dropped his car off Tuesday morning for an oil change and check-up.
"What can you do?" the 60-year-old said when he came to pick up his car. "Things happen."
Paul Biasco reports from the scene:
The plant is known for its massive rooftop sign, which has the Morton slogan: "When it Rains it Pours."
The company, in a statement, said: "A side wall of our storage facility on Elston Avenue in Chicago collapsed this afternoon, spilling road salt outside of the facility and onto a neighboring property. We are working with local authorities to review and respond to the situation. There are no reported injuries. We will provide additional details as appropriate."
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