A sinkhole that would have swallowed a person ate up one side of a new $250,000 semi-automated trash truck up to the top of the tires at the bottom of Crescent Street by North Main Street.
Chains from an excavator, in tandem with a crane, pulled the Mack truck out of the hole while Department of Community Maintenance manager John Perry slowly backed up the rig to free it, officials said.
“The sink hole was over eight feet deep,” DCM Director Kenneth Pacheco said.
The fortunate part was the driver’s side tires remained on firm ground by the curb when the asphalt on the opposite side collapsed from the weight of the truck, which can hold 12 tons of trash, Pacheco said.
“I think what happened there is it probably collapsed underground from the water running at a high rate, eroding the road,” he said.
With Crescent at the bottom of a steep hill at North Main, Pacheco said torrential rains flowed toward that area from steep sections of several streets, including Montgomery, Valentine, Martha, Bliss, Harvard and Jones to the low-lying section.
This was one of many collapsed roads and sidewalks around the city, according to Pacheco and Mayor Will Flanagan.
“Water was over the cars. People were sitting on the roofs of their cars. I’ve never seen that before,” Pacheco said of the heaviest rain, 1.78 inches of it falling in 45 minutes until noontime, and 2 ½ inches overall Wednesday.
Among areas where road closures were ordered was Stafford Square – Quarry and Quequechan streets – where at least four vehicles were submerged.
“We told people to stay in their vehicles and that help was on the way,” Flanagan said.
At Davol Street and President Avenue, people were climbing out windows onto rooftops, a sight captured by several people from their cell phones.
Between numerous stranded vehicles and several motor vehicle accidents, emergency medical service units were kept busy for about three hours until nearly 3 p.m., EMS Deputy Director Beth Faunce said.
She said those needing hospital treatment were taken to city hospitals and none of the injuries were life-threatening.
The Red Cross responded to Fall River, along with Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency officials who planned to meet with Flanagan and assess damage and needs, the mayor said.
No power outages were reported except for a flash stoppage where power went out and right back on at Government Center.
Pacheco reported a small fire at the landfill he believe could have been impacted by methane gases.
“It stopped us from dumping for about an hour,” Pacheco said, and their trucks were pulling back into the Airport Road site again about 2 p.m.
The floods were a particular challenge to DPW trash crews, compounded by being a day behind from the Labor Day holiday and “six to 10” crews helping prepare for Thursday’s primary election.
“We’re still moving ahead. We didn’t stop – though it slowed us down,” Pacheco said.
One that was stopped in its tracks was the trash truck newly delivered last month as part of the new solid waste/recycling program. It may have a bent axle and front spring issues, Pacheco said.