San Fransisco, California. December 4th, 2014.

Just in from our senior correspondent Casey:

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A real sinkhole, a real mess!

Some video as well:

Whilst a parched California needs all the rain it can get, the recent winter storms were probably a little more rain than they needed, especially in The Bay Area..

A parched Bay Area may need the rain, but Wednesday’s storm caused power outages, trapped three cars in a flooded highway underpass, flooded more than a dozen homes, and triggered sinkholes, including a growing 15-by-15-foot crater at a San Francisco intersection.

That sinkhole at Sixth Avenue and Lake Street in the Richmond District involved a broken 8-inch water main, but it’s unclear if the pipe burst before or after the roadway collapsed, said Tyrone Jue, a spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

It’s possible a sewer line also under the roadway could have had a hole in it, causing sand to drain into the sewer line “like an hourglass,” leaving nothing to support the roadbed, Jue said.  “We’re unclear on the sequence of events” because it was taking crews several hours to get the water pipe shut off so they could examine the damage. They were still working on it around noon, he said.

The street there will be closed there indefinitely, with the repair time unknown. A second sinkhole also appeared along a curb in the Castro.

In the Richmond, the intersection was roped off Wednesday morning with yellow police tape and the hole surrounded by about 20 orange cones. Four backhoes and four PG&E maintenance trucks were at the scene, as crews worked through off-and-on rain jack hammering an additional hole farther away, apparently to access the pipe, which was still gushing water at 11 a.m.

Donna Delauter, 57, who lives on a corner of the intersection, said the sinkhole started off much smaller.

“It has just grown and grown,” Delauter said. “As a property owner and tax payer for the last 35 years, I wonder how this could happen all over the city. It’s shocking. It’s very disconcerting to see a hole that size. More than several cars can fit inside. I’d like to have confidence that the city can address this, especially since I live so close.”

Her husband, Tom Egan, 70, said at 8 a.m. this morning he was shaving when the water went off. He went outside to see a 6-by-6-foot sinkhole, with police already there.

For months, Egan said he had noticed an asphalt patch bubbling up where the hole formed Wednesday. The bubbling patch was big enough that Egan drove around it with his car.

“Obviously there was a problem developing,” Egan said. “The real question is how do you ensure the integrity of the street. We don’t want this just filled in an patched.”

Jue said the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs the city’s water and sewer system, was reviewing records but had been unaware of the problem until Wednesday.

“We don’t have any record of anything reaching our sewer operations crew if this was reported,” Jue said. “This was the first that we realized there was a problem.”

Last year, a 20-foot-wide sinkhole opened up four blocks away at the intersection of Lake Street and Second Avenue when a century-old sewer line burst. Repairs took about two weeks as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission replaced a one-block stretch of pipe in May 2013.

“This isn’t the first sinkhole on Lake Street,” Egan said. “There is a problem in this neighborhood based on how water is flowing.”

A second sinkhole on Wednesday, about six feet by 15 feet, opened up along the curb at 19 Danvers St. in the Castro. It was about three feet deep. A single worker was shoveling dirt into the hole Wednesday morning.

Harder hit was an area around 15th Avenue and Wawona Street in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood, where Jue said about a dozen homes were flooded.

Some residents in the low-lying area were still recovering from a water main break in February 2013 that damaged 23 homes, a dozen cars and led to 102 different claims against the city. Three homes on 15th Avenue involved at that time were red-tagged by the city’s Department of Building Inspection because of “voids” under their foundations. The city has so far paid $2.4 million to settle damage claims from that break, according to City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office.

Wednesday’s flooding affected about half of the buildings damaged by the 2013 water main rupture, Jue said.

“The water is flowing downhill to the lowest point, and that area is the lowest point,” Jue said. Residents “are understandably frustrated. We just dealt with this a year an a half ago. … My understanding is some of the homes are vacant” because remodel work continues.

Four homes were flooded at 17th and Folsom streets, with an unknown number also flooded at Cayuga Avenue and Rousseau Street, Jue said.

Three motorists’ cars broke down and blocked the roadway when they tried to drive through a flooded underpass under Highway 101 at Cesar Chavez Street. The storm drain there had been blocked by debris, Jue said.

City officials also said there were multiple power outages across San Francisco from the storm. Parts of Golden Gate, Lincoln and McClaren parks were flooded, Department of Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said.

About three dozen manhole covers came up over night and into the morning because storm drains were full, Gordon said. Part of the problem stems from storm water catch basins repeatedly getting chocked with leaves after consistent rain, she said.

“We’ve been out clearing them for two days now,” Gordon said. “More rain brings more leaves. We have to go and clean it out over and over again.”

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