Unrepaired sinkhole in backyard leaves family without power

A hole in a family's backyard has left them without power for weeks, and they say the city of Houston isn't acting fast enough to repair it
November 15, 2013 4:21:07 PM PST
A backyard that looks like a construction site, and it's all thanks to the city of Houston.

A Houston water main broke underneath the family's home in Missouri City three weeks ago, and the hole is still there. It's 12 feet across, 7 feet deep and the water down below is breeding mosquitos. The city of Houston offered to fix the hole but the family made a reasonable request to get the problem down below fixed first.

For a three-year-old boy there's nothing better than a pile of dirt, a pail and a shovel. And for Kameron, this pile in his backyard looks like a dream. For his mom, Tiffany Thomas, not so much.

"How much do you like having him out here?" we asked her.

"Not at all. Not at all," she said.

It's not the pile that worries her. It's the big hole the dirt came from.

"It's been like this for weeks?" we asked.

"Yes," Thomas said.

"You've asked the city 100 times to fix it?" we asked.


"And it's still here?"

"Still here."

"Our normal practice is to satisfy the homeowner and avoid these types of situations," said Oren Smith with Houston Public Works & Engineering department.

"And that didn't happen in this case?" we asked him.

"That didn't happen in this case," he said.

The problem started with a broken water main between these two homes. On October 22, the city dup up the backyard to fix the pipe and in the process shredded electrical wires. Then the hole sat and sat, and filled with water.

Until we called, the city hadn't even put up a fence around the hole; they'd just covered it with plywood. Now there's a fence, but it's not too strong.

"Legos are harder than this," Thomas said.

All the while, Thomas tells us the city pointed her in a circle.

"I have called the city of Houston, I have called the city secretary, I have called the legal department and everyone told me it's a process," she said.

A process?

Thomas, her husband and three kids are cooking in a microwave and sharing a bed to stay warm. Since there's no electricity, there's no heat.

That's not a process, it's an unfair ordeal.

"I don't want to place blame on anyone," said Michael Johnson with the Houston Public Works & Engineering department.

But the city does say they weren't aware of how severe the problem was at first. But then officials said the delay was the resident's problem for refusing to let the city fill in the hole, even though the problems at the bottom of the hole hadn't been fixed. The city then said it was on the homeowner to call CenterPoint and get the city-created problem repaired. And the city spokesman even suggested at one point Thomas may be lying to us.

"Could it be the fact that this homeowner is using you? No, no, not you, Ted," he told us.

It's something Thomas flatly denied.

On Friday, an electrician came out to fix the wires at the bottom, and on Monday, an inspector is scheduled to go out there. And some time next week, the dirt may be removed and the family could once again have a backyard.

Find Ted on Facebook at ABC13TedOberg or on Twitter at @tedoberg

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