Old Timers in Moraga may remember life Before Chuck, before the rains came. Traffic moved easily along Rheem Boulevard, neighbors waving jauntily to one another, some of them even venturing into the shopping center to buy something from time to time.
And then, whammo. After a biblical eight days of solid precipitation the ground near Autohaus Stuttgart finally said “uh uh” and dropped like a noise-battered soufflé – then-Chief of Police Bob Priebe screaming a warning and townspeople running for their lives (not really, but it was pretty crazy) as the corner light pole at Rheem and Center dropped into the gaping, soggy cleft like a spear, promptly knocking out power and puncturing a gas line. A hasty evacuation followed. Yogurt cups and cheeseburgers were abandoned in place as MPD cleared the area of civilians.
We snapped the photo shown above minutes before Chuck the Sink Hole came to be. If the family in the picture recognizes themselves, check in and feel free to share your memories of the moment. We think we said “hi” as you passed to take a look at the fledgling crater before it collapsed and became a soggy 10-foot-deep canyon.
In the intervening months Chuck evolved from a mere rain hole to a royal pain in the crevasse, re-routing traffic, giving town officials countless sleepless nights (“How are we going to come up with the money to fix this? Bake sales? No… no. Car wash? No, no more water…”). The normally sedate flow of traffic through Rheem Valley became a nightmare as the retail-minded confluence at Rheem and Center began to jam. Tempers rose. Citations were written. A semi-tractor trailer jackknifed in the area trying to avoid the mess.
Months stretched into a year. And more. Chuck was coned off and barricaded, laughing at us from behind flapping yellow caution tape as he became something more than a mere geologic anomaly. Chuck made it personal – affecting traffic patterns, business… lives. Some unkind words were uttered and an intentionally sardonic birthday party was thrown for the town hole when he reached the ripe old age of one year.
And now, finally, Chuck is gone – a memory of a soggier time when the rains came and townspeople found watercress growing in their pockets. It’s over. The town is planning one of those golden shovel-type photo ops later this month to mark the end of Chuck’s hold on the town.
But he’ll always be with us, gone but not forgotten.