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Hard Rock hotel rescue work faces a new threat: weather

"The wind load is our greatest concern right now."

NEW ORLEANS — Two unstable cranes loom over the New Orleans City skyline as rescue operations continue at the site of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site collapse. 

Crews working to simultaneously rescue the last possible survivor while stabilizing the structure have another problem to deal with: The weather.

Fire Chief Tim McConnell said Tuesday morning that with a front coming Wednesday, "the wind load is our greatest concern right now."

Monday night's rain added weight and "lubricated" parts of the partially collapsed construction site, but nothing shifted or moved because of it, McConnell said. However, engineers and forecasters are keeping an eye on the front coming our way that will bring winds from the south for the first time since the structure's collapse. 

South winds are winds that originate in the south and blow north.

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"They’re not going to be extremely strong, we're looking at 10, possibly 15 miles-an-hour, but the south winds are a concern due to the way the crane – the further crane, the one that’s listing – the way it’s positioned," New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said. "We’re definitely watching that."

Arnold noted that homeland security has been working in close coordination with the National Weather Service and set up a temporary weather station at the site. The weather station is measuring winds around the 200-foot level, which are stronger than what we feel on the ground.

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Several floors of the construction site collapsed Saturday amid blinding dust and flying debris. A WWL-TV viewer captured dramatic video of upper floors collapsing Saturday before one side of the building crashed to the street.

Two people are confirmed dead. The body of 49-year-old Anthony Magrette was pulled from the building Sunday. One person's body has been located inside the construction site, but can not be recovered until the structure is stabilized. Another person is still unaccounted for. His family has been waiting by the site for answers.

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Citadel Builders, the general contractor for the project, released the following statement regarding the collapse on their website

"We appreciate the outpouring of support and concern over the tragic accident at our future Hard Rock Hotel site in New Orleans. We are shocked and saddened that there was loss of life, but we are equally grateful that the majority those injured are now resting comfortably at home with their families. We will continue to monitor the condition of those who remain under medical care.

 At Citadel Builders, safety has always been and shall remain a priority for our employees and subcontractors. In the 16 years since we opened our doors, we have completed over $700 million in projects across Louisiana without any OSHA violations or Loss Time Accidents. We have also been a multi-year recipient of the Step Safety Award from the Louisiana Association of Builders and Contractors. We are proud of this impeccable record, and have worked hard to achieve it. While we don't yet know what caused the accident at the Hard Rock site, we would like our clients, friends, and the general public to rest assured that we are working with some of the finest engineering minds in the world and will get to the bottom of it."  


From our leadership and our employees, we thank you for your well wishes and ask that you keep the deceased and injured in your prayers. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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