A little more than three weeks before the Cross on the Hill was seen swaying for more than two hours on what witnesses say was a windless morning, a road a short distance away was undermined by a water-carved hole at least nine feet deep, SooToday.com has learned.
The damage was attributed to a broken watermain, just like another occurrence 13 months earlier that shifted the foundation of nearby Notre Dame Des Grands Lacs school, briefly trapping students inside one classroom. The Sault Ste. Marie PUC confirmed today that they repaired the most recent watermain break on December 30 at the corner of St. George's and Grand Avenues.
PUC workers were alerted to the water-flow problem there by City staff, who noticed an unusually high volume of water flowing through the storm sewer in the area.
"We sent out a crew to investigate and had the problem isolated by noon," said Randy Johnson, the PUC's manager of marketing and customer communications.
Johnson told SooToday.com that when crews excavated to repair the problem, they found a hole carved by water running under the road at the entrance to St. Basil Secondary School, about 150 meters from the landmark cross.
"The cavity was about nine feet or ten feet deep, probably about fifteen square feet," said Johnson.
He said the erosion was isolated to the area between the watermain break and the roadway.
Among the theories proferred to explain the movement of the cross has been one of hydrogeological instability. On November 20, 2003, Notre Dame Des Grands Lacs, the Sault's French Catholic secondary school at 250 St. George East, suffered major structural damage when a watermain break shifted parts of the building, briefly trapping some students.
Door frames were moved and firefighters had to open a jammed classroom door to allow students to leave, officials at the scene told SooToday.com.
The fire department was summoned by students inside the classroom who had cell phones.
All Notre Dame students were safely evacuated, but the school suffered extensive damage.
Full SooToday.com coverage of the Swaying Cross story
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