Syracuse, New York. April 26th, 2011.

Syracuse officials fear that the 20-feet deep sinkhole being repaired on Richmond Avenue today is just the first of several holes created by rushing water during that fierce storm that dumped 1.8 inches of water on April 26.

“We anticipate we might have a few more. I’ve got one road looking like it might sink right now,” said Public Works Commissioner Pete O’Connor. “We think there’s going to be a lot of damage.”

The sinkhole on Richmond Avenue, and a second potential sinkhole at Fitch and Cadwell Streets in the Skunk City neighborhood, will be on the tour Friday when officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency assess Onondaga County damage caused by the rainstorm.

The city is hoping the federal and state government will come up with the money needed to make repairs to damaged roads and sewer systems, O’Connor said. The city’s cost of the repairs was $3.8 million Thursday morning, and the price tag is climbing as more damage is found as inspections of the city’s 467 miles of roads continues, he said.

O’Connor estimated the cost of repairs will come in at about $4.5 million.

The Richmond Avenue sinkhole alone will cost $90,000 to repair, he said.

“We are hoping big time that FEMA steps in for this,” O’Connor said.

The sinkhole on Richmond Avenue is located on the downward slope as the road flows toward Wall Street. It was caused when the 199-year-old sewer pipe in the area became inundated with water during the April 26 storm. The clay pipe cracked under the pressure. Water began coursing out, eating the soil around it.

Enough soil was eaten away that by May 5 the road collapsed, opening a hole 15 to 20 feet deep and 25 to 30 feet long, O’Connor estimated.

When it appeared, “you could have fit a school bus in the hole,” said Jose Gonzalez, who watched the repairs being made Thursday while on a break from his job up the street at Rotary Auto Repair at 345 Richmond Ave.

O’Connor said he looks for damage around catch basins and newly opened cracks on the road surface as evidence of a new sinkhole forming. Crews will then use the city’s sole television camera to inspect sewers in those areas too look for cracks in lines that need to be repaired quickly before a hole can open up, he said.

Water also seeped under the road surface as it coursed down curb-less city streets, creating ditches 6 to 18 inches deep and up to 2 feet wide, O’Connor said. Dudley Street coming down from Most Holy Rosary School and Arthur Street have big problems, he said.

“We really anticipate we could be getting damage from this storm up to a year or two years,” O’Connor said.

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