-Written by Erik Sargent
Misfortune struck on Christmas Eve in the Michigan town of Fraser and the effects are still being felt, and will continue for months.
A broken sewer line’s failure caused the soil and sand in the area to wash away, creating a sinkhole that spanned roughly 250 feet long and 100 feet wide on 15 Mile Road in Macomb County. Many people in the area of the sinkhole faced flooding in their basement, and a few houses were condemned due to structural failures, with people being forced to evacuate immediately.
Those who were forced to evacuate immediately had to leave without most of their belongings, and are now stuck in limbo waiting to find out what happens next. Construction has been ongoing, and the window for when things will be back to normal remains unclear.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Gov. Rick Snyder has been on site, and declared a state of emergency for the area. The damage expenses are expected to be well into the millions, and the effects felt from the sinkhole could cover a wide radius.
Dave Gaber, general manager of the moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® which was hired by a private engineering company – Anderson, Eckstein, and Westrick Inc. to move residents out quickly, was able to witness damages of the sinkhole in person as the moving team helped clear out all belongings from affected homes.
Moving residents affected by the sinkhole required more than the usual manpower for the moving company as they weren’t typical moves. Two days were required to move residents from two homes, with one move taking seven movers and more than seven hours, while the other home needed 10 movers and over eight hours to get belongings out. These moves took even longer, just because nothing was packed- residents were notified they had to vacate their homes immediately. Power was also out in the homes, creating a foreign moving environment for the movers.
“It was eerie at first, mostly because the people that lived there were told they had to leave immediately,” Gaber said. “So, whatever was out – their dinner on the table, everything – was just left abandoned like a ghost town.”
Safety was a major concern for Gaber and his team, and they were cleared by the engineering company before they entered any house.
“One of the things I wanted to do myself was, I’m not going to put my movers in a situation that I wouldn’t do myself,” Gaber said. “(The engineering company) reassured us things were safe, that the homes were not going to move or slide into a hole while we were out there.”
For the people whose homes were affected, getting back to normal might not come quickly, or cheap. According to ESurance.com, “Naturally occurring sinkholes are often viewed in the same category as earthquakes, or ‘ground movement.’ This means they’re not usually covered by your standard homeowner’s insurance coverage.”
This raises the question – was this a natural occurrence, or a structural failure of the pipes? The answer could go a long way in determining who has to pay who, and how much.
Regardless, the sinkhole has brought in a time of fear and uncertainty for people, and those who have witnessed it first-hand have seen just how rough a sinkhole situation can be.
“We were thinking it was potential danger. We were scared, we were making jokes about it also – it was definitely different,” said David Gaber, who was one of the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® movers who went inside a damaged home. “It was weird going out there.”
As it currently stands, the future of the area effected by the sinkhole remains unknown. ABCNews reported that the cost to fix the sinkhole is estimated at more than $78 million, and that cost could rise into the $100 million-range if work is done to the rest of the pipeline.
Michigan congressional members are looking into funding and loan programs to find solutions to help pay for the cost of repairs where damage was done along the sewer line.