That San Francisco Sinkhole Was Our ‘War of the Worlds’ Moment

On Monday, September 11th, passersby and drivers in SF’s Pacific Heights neighborhood were presented with an ominous, downright dangerous sight: a massive sinkhole.

Between Fillmore and Green streets in San Francisco this week, a 74-year-old water main broke causing the earth around it to balloon with water. Eventually, the pressure and unmoored land around the pipes caused the area to “pop,” leaving nothing but a truly massive sinkhole in the absence of solid ground.

Nearby homes in the neighborhood were affected; not surprisingly, Muni lines were redirected and traffic came to a near standstill until it was rerouted.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a gas line was also impacted; the flooding caused major damage to the Cameron James Salon — a basement-level beauty shop at 2185 Union Street — which could take weeks to repair.

“This is beyond anybody’s control,” said salon owner Mohammad Sheikh to the newspaper, as his son waded through the pool of water, leaving him to walk through the mess wearing a garbage bag on the lower half of his body. “I’m worried about the tenants that are going to suffer from the losses. … They’re not going to be able to have any business.”

Thankfully, the City is responsible for the damage caused by the decades-old water main; Sheikh’s salon will be cleaned of the mud and water that inundated it, and the City will be vigilant with any mold-related issues that may arise from the water damage.

It’s unclear how long those repairs and others might take; the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) repairs roughly nine miles of century-old pipping in SF a year, though… leaks do happen — thankfully not to this degree, usually.

However, an update posted by SFPUC on Wednesday, September 13th, noted that on-site crews have fully repaired the leak and that the sinkhole has been refilled. But how long will it take to complete all the necessary work to repair the sinkhole and repave the road it swallowed? At least six weeks.

(When I saw the image of San Francisco’s now-viral sinkhole swallow on my X feed, I was immediately brought back to my corpulent youth in Upstate New York. The last day before we moved back to Texas, a fellow tween, who had I befriended at school — and then fell in unreciprocated love with; a universal queer experience, frankly — and I went to go see War of The Worlds in our town’s only theatre. 

In the 2005 blockbuster, Tom Cruise’s character, Ray Ferrier, rushes toward a humming intersection with a gaggle of other townspeople to examine an area where lightning had struck multiple times. Moments later, the ground beneath the roadway crumbled, exposing an ostensibly endless cavern — a sinkhole, in and of itself — engulfing cars, pavement, and, yes, symbolically a church.

Though no hostile alien-driven tripods emerged from the one that cratered San Francisoc’s Pacific Heights neighborhood on Monday, the concavity in War of The Worlds did cause far less water damage.)

Feature image: Courtesy of X via [at]@martinchbg

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