Harrisburg sinkhole incident first to be granted pre-disaster relief

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Oct 17, 2017 6:17 PM

Photo by Ben Allen/WITF

Thr 1400 block of South 14th Street.

(Harrisburg) -- Harrisburg residents whose homes are under threat from a nearby sinkhole will be bought out and able to relocate, thanks in part to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It's the first time this kind of federal funding has been used for sinkholes.

Fifty-three homes came under threat in March 2014 when a large sinkhole opened up on the 1400 block of South 14th St. Some homes had immediate damage, but others further down the block were still in danger.

"We knew the sinkhole was going to get a little wider. And so, basically 25 were right there over the sinkole, the other 28 were as you move out from the sinkhole," said Tom Hughes with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Hughes said state and city officials successfully lobbied FEMA to allow pre-mitigation relief for the incident, meaning residents can be moved out before their homes are destroyed.

Engineers in Harrisburg determined the sinkhole was caused by earlier flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. That opened up disaster relief funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In total, the entire disaster cost about $7 million.

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