California road collapse causes evacuations

LA JOLLA, CA -- (CBS/AP) A sinkhole buckled a four-lane road Wednesday in a hilly upscale neighborhood, destroying one home and damaging five others. No injuries were reported.

Power lines fell, and 20 homes were evacuated, 10 on a hilltop and 10 on a street below, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Seven people were inside the homes that were evacuated.

The collapse in the La Jolla neighborhood of million-dollar homes left a ravine of crumpled pavement. Orange traffic cones and sections of big concrete pipes sat in the fissure slashing across the wide boulevard.

The hill, cut with plateaus for roads and houses, finally gave way to the most common of forces, gravity, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. In what geologists call the slide plane, the earth slipped downhill, piling up on the next plateau, adding weight and the risk that gravity would bring more slides.

According to reports from CBS affiliate KFMB, the shifting earth created major cracks in the road, creating a sinkhole 50 yards wide and 12 feet deep.

Six homes were damaged or destroyed and two others were in danger, but the problems appeared to be contained, said Robert Hawk, a city engineering geologist.

"It is fairly well-defined and localized," Hawk said.

Electricity was initially cut off to nearly 2,500 customers but restored to 2,000 within two hours, according to KFMB. Gas was cut off to about a dozen customers.

Holli Weld was walking her son to preschool when the street collapsed.

"It was sinking as I was walking by," she said. "The street was sinking before our eyes."

At least three significant hill slides have occurred in the area between 1961 and 1994, including a major failure in 1961 that destroyed seven homes under construction.

A firm hired by the city last month was in the area this week after a large section of slope on Mount Soledad began to slip, Hawk said. The city began noticing cracks on Soledad Mountain Road in July and became concerned about a landslide three or four weeks ago.

The city sent letters to residents Monday and Tuesday warning residents, and the outside firm hired by the city recommended Tuesday that four homes be evacuated, Hawk said.

Posted by LS