After six days straight of rain, potholes and sinkholes of all shapes and sizes began popping up Wednesday in the Bay Area, including a small one on the Bay Bridge and one the size of a small swimming pool in San Francisco.
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San Francisco police stood guard over the large sinkhole, about 15 feet by 30 feet, in the middle of the intersection of Lake Street and Sixth Avenue, to prevent anyone from falling in and getting hurt.[[284633361, C]]
PG&E crews also worked furiously to turn off the exposed gas line, as water gushed underneath the gaping pavement. Earth and pipes could be easily seen by peering down into the hole, which was reported shortly after 8 a.m.
The crews were trying to shore up the foundation so that the sinkhole wouldn't grow any larger. A large apartment building stands on the corner near the hole.
Department of Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said the hole was caused by a break in an eight-inch water main. Crews hoped the work would be finished by late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.
The pipe that burst pre-dates the 1906 earthquake. The city says there are some pipes that date back to the Gold Rush days. They are not meant to last this long. Richmond District residents told NBC Bay Area it was only a matter of time before another sinkhole showed up.
Cathy Barnes has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years. “I can’t say I’m shocked,” she said.
While city crews try to make repairs as fast as they can, residents on two blocks are without running water. Suyash Joshi couldn’t go to work. “No water this morning,” he said. “I woke up, tried to brush my teeth and I open the faucet–I’m like, ‘What?’”
Last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported 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. [[284639931, C]]
“We're concerned that this block doesn't seem to be at the forefront of the project to replace all the sewer lines,” Barnes said. “They need to get that work done. They're over 100 years old, these pipes. Obviously, they waited too long.”
SFPUC spokesperson Jean Walsh said the city is dealing with a backlog of aging-infrastructure-related projects. “We have hundreds of these,” she said. “We have a lot happening all the time. So it’s hard to say if we knew about this.”
Walsh said a multi-billion project is underway to replace the city’s aging infrastructure, but due to limited budgets and crews, everything can’t be done at once.
"We do a major risk assessment to sort of prioritize," Walsh said. "But then we have issues like this, where there’s no prioritizing. It just needs to be fixed right now.”
Another, smaller sinkhole opened along the curb in the city's Castro District that was about three feet deep. A single city worker was seen filling the hole with dirt.
Elsewhere, a much smaller square-shaped hole was spotted on the Bay Bridge on Wednesday, but traffic was proceeding at normal speeds during the morning commute. The California Highway Patrol said it had been repaired later on Wednesday morning.
Sinkholes are caused when rock under the land surface dissolves with groundwater circulating underneath. Potholes are caused in pavement.
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NBC Bay Area's Shawn Murphy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.