Michigan couple watches home crumble from sinkhole USA TODAY NETWORK Emma Ockerman and Robert Allen, Detroit Free Press

FRASER, Mich. — Sue Albu and her husbandawoke to sounds of popping at about 4 a.m. ET Christmas Eve.

They could tell something was off.

Two hours later, she had trouble opening the doors in her house. Its frame had begun to shift.

Albu called the police. Her home was sinking into the ground.

“I mean, it was just trying to grab what we could to salvage it,” Albu said.

Her house, on the corner of 15 Mile Road and Eberlein Drive, was partially collapsed late Saturday. The sinkhole is endangering other structures and forced the closure of the 15 Mile Road in both directions.

Homeowners on Albu’s street quickly evacuated, taking their Christmas celebrations elsewhere while authorities cut power for several hours to almost 900 electric customers to allow electrical services to be rerouted around the affected area.

By Saturday afternoon, the shingles on Albu’s corner house would buckle, and the gutters were bent.

Albu has lived in their three-bedroom, 2½-bath home since 1999, long enough to see another massive sinkhole that opened up on 15 Mile in August 2004. Still, it did not seem as if a second sinkhole could affect the area, she said.

“There were no indications that this could happen,” Albu said. Then she watched her home crumble.

Albu and her husband bought the 1,800-square-foot home $207,500, and it was estimated to be worth about $250,000 in 2016, according to Zillow. It was built in 1998 on a little more than a quarter acre lot.

Two neighboring homes also were ordered to be evacuated.

The source of the problem appears to have begun 55 feet underground with a crumbling 11-foot-wide sewer line, said Lt. Mike Pettyes of the Fraser Public Safety Department. If the line has broken, effluent is washing away soil and creating a void that can’t hold the dirt above it.

Authorities said Saturday that it was unclear how large the sinkhole could be, though the source of the problem begins 55 feet underground, where there’s an 11-foot-wide sewer line. It was also unclear how long it would take before the area was stabilized, though a state of emergency was in the process of being declared for the city, incident commander and Fraser Public Safety Lt. Mike Pettyes said.

The city first received a call about Albu’s home just before 6:30 a.m., and DTE Energy, the area’s electric and natural gas utility, was dispatched to the sinkhole about 12:20 p.m.

“We’re kind of in sit-around-and-wait (mode),” he said. “A lot of people are convinced that it’s just a matter of time — and it’s not if the house is going to come crumbling down, it’s when.”

Several people watched the spectacle of emergency vehicles from the nearby Green Lantern pizzeria, where Albu said many took refuge while waiting to return to their homes. Paige Toerper, a waitress there, said she and others are scared for the residents affected.

A different restaurant was at the pizzeria’s location the last time a sinkhole closed 15 Mile Road, and she had been told it lost business during the 10 months needed to repair the road.

“I just hope this gets fixed, the families find somewhere safe to go, and that our business isn’t affected,because it’s a really good business to work for,” Toerper said.

Meanwhile, Albu, her husband and her dog will spend Christmas Day at her daughter’s home elsewhere in Macomb County. She said she has filed a report with her insurance agency but is still left with unanswered questions.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 
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