CINCINNATI — Ashley Crabb doesn’t know when she’ll be able to return home. She, her children and her neighbors on Riverside Drive could be living in hotels or couch-surfing for weeks while city crews work to repair the water main break that flooded their homes on Saturday. The road remained closed near the water main break as of Tuesday morning.
"Honestly, we lost everything," Crabb said. "You get somewhere and then something happens, because we just started getting this house together. We had drywall down there to work on the house and everything. Kids' brand new Christmas presents, all of our medicine, everything we own is in there."
The 60-inch water main — one of the largest in the Greater Cincinnati Water Works system — broke late Saturday morning, creating a sinkhole so wide and deep that it swallowed a car parked along Riverside.
“When we first went out there, it was just parked in front of the other cars still," said the Rev. Jason Williams, who preaches at St. Rose Church nearby. "Within about an hour, the car had shifted a little this way, and then within another hour, it had done its nose dive."
At the same time, dirty water poured into the first floor of Crabb's home. Almost nothing was salvageable.
She and her children, a five-year-old and a 14-year-old, were staying in a motel on Monday night and weighing next steps. The flood is a "crisis happening in the middle of a crisis," she said — one more complication in a time full of them, especially for students with special needs like her son and daughter. She and her neighbors aren't sure when or if they will be able to go home.
Riverside Drive from Delta Av to Collins Av is closed due to a 60" watermain break. No trucks will be able to pass between Bains and Delta. Collins has a railroad bridge preventing trucks over 10' from passing.— Cincinnati Police Department (@CincyPD) January 3, 2021
This may be a several week closure. @ODOT_Cincinnati pic.twitter.com/Q4Eq8m5Evb
In the meantime, Riverside Drive is closed between Delta and Collins avenues so repair crews have room to work. Officials haven't determined what caused the water main break or how long it could impact traffic and homes in the area; there's still a lot to do before they can assess the damage and determine what caused it.
"We really need to take a look at it to see what type of break it was to be able to even hazard a guess at what caused it," said Jason Fleming, superintendent of water distribution for GCWW. "There’s several factors that could lead to a break like this: age-related deterioration of the main, weather, pressure surges. So it’s really hard to say right now until we get a look at it."
He said he expects repairs to take several days. Riverside Drive will likely remain closed for one to two weeks, he added. Boil water advisories associated with the main break ended Monday night.
No one in the area has been injured by the break or the subsequent damage, although many families are, like Crabb's, waiting in limbo for more information.
Williams, the priest, said faith and charity will help those displaced by the water damage.
“I think especially in those moments where we experience in our own lives, in our own circumstances, whatever those struggles might be, to realize the Lord to be there with us," Williams said. "The charity that other people give, to support, to help them discover that love of God for them through the love that others have for them.”