Residents in Mt. Oliver evacuated after homes shift off their foundations
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013, 5:27 p.m.
Families evacuated three homes on Frederick Street in Mt. Oliver Friday afternoon because buildings started shifting on their foundations.
It happened about 3 p.m. in the 100 block, where portions of the street began to sink and crack, emergency responders said. They closed much of the block to traffic while the Allegheny County Emergency Management Agency investigated.
The agency declined to comment, but residents say they believe a broken water line may be responsible.
There was a minor line break Wednesday afternoon that was repaired in about an hour on Thursday morning, according to a statement from Gary Lobaugh, an external affairs manager with Pennsylvania American Water.
Lobaugh said mine subsidence may be to blame.
“Early feedback from the scene indicates the damage is consistent with mine subsidence and not the minimal amount of water that escaped from the service line,” he said.
“My house sank so much that my water meter — the pipe inside — broke,” said Stephen Thomas, 34, who returned home from work to a soppy mess. He said his front porch had separated from the home by about a foot.
A 2- to 3-inch gap first appeared there on Wednesday, but it grew dramatically on Friday, Thomas said. He said firefighters checked a neighboring house for structural damage when it, too, showed early signs of movement.
By Friday afternoon, a wall on that adjacent home had bowed and sent bricks cascading to the ground. Officials from Columbia Gas and Duquesne Light responded to shut off utilities, residents said.
Across the street, Rebecca Cillo said her grandchildren's home shifted so much that they couldn't open the front door. They hauled belongings out of a basement door and a living-room window.
“My grandkids could've gotten killed in that house. It could've caved in on them,” said Cillo, 54, of the South Side Slopes.
Borough firefighter Anthony Shuey said three houses were evacuated and that two adjacent homes were vacant. He said cracks were visible in at least one home's foundation.
All five houses were damaged, Shuey said.
The American Red Cross provided food and shelter to five adults and six children, disaster responder Kaitlin Norris said.
“These people were all in grave danger,” Cillo said.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writers Michael Hasch,Tom Fontaine and Andrew Russell contributed to this report.
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