|By Bob Dyer, The Akron Beacon Journal|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Now he knows.
Polk owns half a dozen properties in
Or at least they did until a couple of Sundays ago.
Laura was just getting out of the shower that evening when she heard a loud noise she describes as a snap. She phoned Alex and said, "You need to come home now! I think our house exploded! I'm scared to leave the bathroom and I can hear water pouring everywhere in the basement!"
Alex drove home, figuring he would have to deal with a broken pipe, which would be inconvenient but not catastrophic.
As he headed down the basement steps of the small, 75-year-old house, he discovered that the overhead light was burned out. But he managed to work his way through the darkness to the main water valve and shut it off.
He replaced the bulb and flipped on the light. Because the new bulb was a
The entire foundation had snapped in half. The west side of the house had dropped two feet into the ground.
When Alex looked to the west, where he would normally see a wall, he had a clear view of his father's house through an 8-inch gap between the top course of block and the wall.
The Polks had been victimized by an abandoned coal mine built in the 1800s.
Most of the folks in that area of
But when he bought the now-unlivable house in 2006, "I didn't worry about it. Everybody else built here. You don't think anything about it."
From time to time, a hole would open up back in the woods, some of them large and deep enough to gobble up a deer.
Alex and Laura swiftly gathered their essentials and got out of the house. He moved in with his parents and she went to her parents.
They won't be back in the rental house anytime soon.
The number of cubic yards required is anyone's guess.
"We just pump until it comes up to the surface," says
Zechman says he encounters these types of problems four or five times a year in his jurisdiction, which technically runs from New Philly to
"A lot of times in the 1860s, people dug them on their own -- a farmer in the wintertime. Nothing to do, so he would get out there and dig."
As you might imagine, those mines were not exactly the epitome of long-term structural health. "There was nothing up above it, no stone to hold the roof or anything," Zechman says.
"These mines could be anywhere in
Although he might sound like an insurance salesman, he's not. He works for the post office and also runs one of the largest concealed-carry training programs in the area.
Mine insurance was not required to stabilize the house. That work is funded by a national tax on coal suppliers and distributed through ODNR. But because the Polks bought the optional
That won't happen quickly, even though the process has started.
Says Zechman: "[The insurance company] will put some gauges on it and monitor it for a few months to make sure it's not moving, then come in and do whatever they have to do to repair it."
The maximum payment for MSI claims recently was raised to
MSI insurance is mandatory in 26
In the days leading up to the collapse, Alex and Laura had some warning signs -- at least in retrospect.
"During a big thaw," says
Now they know.
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