Two Fort Street homes were evacuated late Tuesday night after a large boulder broke free from a hillside near 60 Fairview Avenue in Athens and landed on two vehicles and a house on Fort Street.
According to Andy Stone, director of Athens' Department of Engineering and Public Works, a large boulder and debris broke loose from the hillside just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and landed on the front of 20 Fort St.
Although a family was home at the residence at the time of the incident, no one was injured. Stone said the family was in the back of the home when the massive boulder struck it. He estimated the rock to be about 25 feet in diameter. Two vehicles in front of the home were also crushed.
Stone said the front of 20 Fort Street was primarily used as a carport and the house is probably salvagable. The occupants of 18 and 20 Fort Street were evacuated and are staying elsewhere until crews can examine the hillside between Fairview and Fort in the daylight on Wednesday.
As the boulder fell, it knocked down utility poles which interrupted electric, telephone and cable service to the immediate area. The boulder was so heavy, it also broke a waterline underneath Fort Street. City crews were working to repair the waterline overnight.
Stone said some of the debris would be removed Tuesday night, but the large boulder would need to be broken into smaller pieces in order to be removed from the scene.
Athens Fire Chief Bob Troxel said Columbia Gas shut off natural gas service to 20 Fort St. He said the hillside will have to be examined in the daylight before residents of 18 Fort St. may return home.
Troxel said Fort Street will be barricaded to through traffic until further notice.
Mary Diles, who lives just a few doors down from 20 Fort St., said she had just returned home from seeing a movie and was still in her car in her driveway when she heard the hillside give way.
"At first I thought it was thunder," she said. "Then I saw sparks and thought it was firecrackers."
Diles said when she saw the sparks, she assumed some area residents were having some sort of celebration.
Diles said if she had been driving down the street a minute earlier, she would have probably died.
Stone said from what he could see Tuesday night at the scene, it appeared tree roots had grown into a fissure in the boulder. He said the tree roots paired with the heavy rain showers this week were likely the culprit behind the rock slide. He said he didn't think residents above the rockslide on Fairview were in any danger.