Boulder Wreaks Havoc In Fall In Athens

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UPDATE 2:45 p.m. Residents of two houses on the Athens street where a giant boulder crashed down last night remain displaced today due to a lack of electricity and gas to their homes. 

Crews shut off gas and electricity on Fort Street after the 25-foot boulder crushed two vehicles, damaged a house, knocked down utility poles and damaged an underground water line.
No one was hurt. 
A city crew repaired the water line by 6 a.m. and most residents in the area had their utilities restored.
But the two houses that are closest to the rock remain out of gas and electricity.
The rock lies in front of 20 Fort Street, where it crashed into the home's garage last night.
"The rockslide was probably caused by tree roots and significant heavy rain that penetrated the fissure over time. This caused the rock to fall," says Ron Lucas, Deputy Service Safety Director. "Geotechnical specialists will be brought in to assess the hillside. Fort Street will remain closed to traffic until our public work crews can remove the rock and repair the roadway."
Nicholas Creary lives at 18 Fort Street, next door to the house where the rock crashed. 
"I heard what sounded like thunder and saw what I thought was lightning but it turns out it was that big old boulder that came down the hill and power lines snapping. The whole neighborhood was out and making sure everybody was OK," said Creary. "Nobody was hurt, thank God. We were able to make sure that cars with power lines on them were removed and we were able to get the power cut off quickly."
According to Stone, the boulder came down from private property on 60 Fairview Avenue. 
"I've met the owner of the property and we've talked about this being an concern before," says Creary. "But what can you do? There is no way to prepare for something like that." 
Stone cannot confirm whether it would have been the responsibility of the property owner to take preventative action. 
But as far as the city's regular maintenance of heavy rocks goes city crews only monitor rocks that are on public property unless landowners express concerns to the city. 
"The best thing they could do would be to notify us in advance so we can get out there and get our eyes on it. Landowners can contact City Hall or the city engineers about their concerns. But to my knowledge, we haven't received advanced notice about this particular rock," said Paula Mosley, City Safety director.
But even if the landowner has contacted the city engineer, he would have had a hard time finding a solution for this particular 25-foot giant. 
"As far as work that could have been done to prevent the rock from falling… I don't think so," says Stone. "The boulder's probably more than a 100 tons, so I don't see how you would be able to put anything up there to prevent it from falling."
Another rock in the area where the boulder fell is now in question. 
City engineers will evaluate this rock to try to prevent another rockslide from happening. 
While preventative techniques are the topic of an ongoing discussion, the boulder on 20 Fort Street will be removed.
"We'll have to break it into pieces and remove it a piece at the time," says Stone. 
He adds it will take at least one week for the boulder to be removed completely.

UPDATE 9:46 a.m. Athens City officials are in the process of finding the owners of vehicles parked on Fort Street, where a boulder landed after falling from the hillside around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

No one was injured when the rock crashed into the garage of the home at 20 Fort Street.
Andy Stone, City Engineering and Public Works Director, says the area will be barricaded Wednesday so crews can begin to assess how to remove the boulder.
"We're evaluating that right now. We'll probably have to break it, well, I know we'll have to break it into pieces and remove it a piece at a time. It's in the middle of the street, so there's not really any other choice, we can't leave it where it is," said Stone.
Stone says when the 25-foot boulder fell last night, it took down several power lines, poles and cables and caused a water line break when it landed. The water line was repaired late last night.
The rock also damaged several cars and crushed one vehicle before crashing into the house. 
"I don't see that the house is going to fall down, or anything to that effect.  It might have been worse. It almost looked as though one of the cars that took the brunt of the hit from the boulder maybe stopped its forward momentum and kept it from going further in the house," said Stone. He says the neighboring house at 18 Fort Street also sustained damage.
Athens Fire Chief Bob Troxel says the families in the two homes were evacuated last night and are not yet allowed to return to their houses.
Troxel says falling rocks are not uncommon in the area, but this is by far the largest he's ever seen.
"It was pretty incredible, you know, when you have a rock come down around here, the big ones are the size of three by three, or something like that.  This thing was bigger than a firetruck," said Troxel.
Another rock in the area where the boulder fell is now in question, said Troxel.  "It hasn't come down and we don't know that it will ever come down, but it was right next to the one that did, so we want to make sure that is evaluated.  I know the city engineer is looking into that to get that evaluated." 
A press conference is set for 11 a.m. to address the boulder situation.  Stay with WOUB for updates.

A boulder that broke free from a hillside in southeast Ohio has crushed two vehicles, damaged a house, knocked down utility poles and damaged an underground water line.

No one was injured when the boulder and debris crashed down about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Athens' engineering and public works director says the family living in the house was home, but in a back area of the house that avoided damage. He says the boulder was about 25 feet in diameter.
The family and residents of a neighboring home are evacuated until crews can evaluate the hillside's integrity.
Mary Diles, who lives nearby, says she heard the boulder break away and at first thought it was thunder, then saw sparks and thought it might be fireworks.