Relief coming for Harrisburg block left unsteady by sinkholes

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Oct 25, 2016 1:47 PM

Photo by Ben Allen/WITF

The 1400 block of South 14th Street is closed to cars because of the sinkholes that have opened up.

(Harrisburg) -- Sinkholes have left houses on one Harrisburg block with cracked foundations, floors that no longer feel sturdy, and front doors that won't open.

Now, more than two years after the first one opened up, a solution appears to be coming.

It doesn't take long for people who live along one block on South 14th Street to point out a sinkhole.

Maria Vargas-Graves lives at the end of the neighborhood with her husband and three kids.

She sees what looks like a storm drain along the curb in the middle of the block.

Instead it's a hole, filled with leaves.

"Right here, this opened up right here," she says.


Photo by Ben Allen/WITF

A house is elevated above the ground in front it because a sinkhole broke open.

She says when the sinkholes first took out chunks of the block, she'd stay up all night, looking out the window, fearful her house would be next.

But now, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development is approving a project to buy all 50-plus houses.

Officials say combining HUD's money with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for all the properties.


Photo by Ben Allen/WITF

Bricks cracked on a house on South 14th Street in Harrisburg.

Still, Vargas-Graves says it's too late for one older resident, known for keeping an eye on all the children on the block.

"She didn't want to be here no more, living like that. She wanted her house, she wanted to stay here, just like anybody else, but she didn't want to live in the situation we continue to live in, like that," says Vargas-Graves.

She died this summer.

"One day, and I was hoping she would see it, one day we going hope and pray that the money would come through and we'd all be able to get out of here and be safe. So, some of us got to see it, and some didn't," she adds.

Meetings will be set up with over the next two weeks with each person with the goal of beginning the moving process by mid-December.

Vargas-Graves says more than half of the homes on the block remain occupied, despite the sinkhole threat.

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