crash

—Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

I imagine it happening in the middle of the night.  (These things often seem to occur in the wee hours, when no one’s around.  At least, I hope that will be the case.)

Nina and I are awakened by a huge crash.  A tremendous boom.  Like an explosion.  Our house shakes.  (We live on Clay Street; I’m almost certain our house will shudder like it does during an earthquake.  Except this earthquake will be man-made.)

Then, sirens.  Wailing, wailing as every fire company for 30 miles around arrives on the scene.  State police, village police, border patrol—all will be there.  Then huge klieg lights, eerily illuminating the downtown.  And the acrid smell, like a pall over the village.

Within minutes, I notice there’s traffic going down Clay Street.  (Ah, yes.  Main Street has been sealed off.)

Such will be the day when the river destroys Malone.

What I just outlined will be the best scenario, mind you, the one we should all hope and pray for.

The bad scenario is:  The collapse happens during the day.  A busy day of traffic downtown.  That is to say, an ordinary day of traffic crawling through the narrow canyon of centuries-old buildings lining Malone’s historic downtown—a downtown now turned murderous.  When suddenly the entire front of this huge building pitches forward onto traffic and perhaps pedestrians, oblivious to the time-bomb which has been silently parked there by the bridge, lo all these years.  Biding its time.

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Sirens.  Downtown cordoned off.  Casualties.  Ambulances.  And we all suck in our breath in horror and tell one another, “Such a tragedy!  Nina Pierpont was on her way to Price Chopper in her white Subaru.  Rescue teams are down there now, trying to extricate her from the car.  She appears to be alive, but there’s lots of blood.”

“Has anyone told her husband, yet?”

Nina Pierpont—or you, or me—won’t be the only one.

This building—#395 W. Main St—is going to fall into the Salmon River.

The most significant problem of this building is the questionable soundness and stability of the exterior walls, particularly the east, stone-masonry wall which is founded in the riverbed. This wall is supporting all of the interior floors. Failure of this wall would likely result in complete and catastrophic failure of the entire building.

This wall has a noticeable bulge, approximately an 8” displacement outward, at the center of the main floor, basement, and sub-basement levels. It has not been determined if this is due to instability (buckling) of the wall or due to a shifting of the foundation. This movement has already pulled the support beams for the sub-basement floor out of their wall pockets, resulting in failure and collapse of approximately half of the sub-basement floor.

Collapse of this floor caused collapse of several pipe-columns supporting the basement floor, above, exacerbating the building’s problems. This movement has also pulled the beams (supporting the basement and floor joists for the main floor) out of their wall pockets, reducing bearing to an inch or less in some cases. Further movement of this wall could cause failure of the basement and main floors, initiating catastrophic failure of the entire building.

I am quoting from a report by John MacArthur, Senior Engineer for Beardsley Design Associates, Malone.  (Click here for the entire report.  By the way, all the quotations in my article are taken from MacArthur’s report, as are all the photos except for one which I took.  All textual notations on the photos were made by Mr. MacArthur, who did the report at the request of the Village Trustees.  It’s dated November 30, 2012.)

You drive by it every day.  It stands like a fortress, anchoring the west end of the Salmon River bridge.  Five stories high, towering 90′ above the riverbed.  “From the street level and below, the building is constructed of mortared stone masonry with walls approximately 30” thick.”  The upper floors are brick.

Rob Haynes, head of the local NYS Dept of Transportation, swears the bridge won’t collapse when this building buckles and, on the way down, begins clawing at the adjoining building (For Art’s Sake) and bridge and highway—although I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be driving across the bridge when it happens—the poor bastard who proves the DOT geniuses right or, gulp, wrong. (Remember what all the armchair engineers with their computer models said about the World Trade Center—before it did what we all knew it would do under immense impact?  Though in that case, admittedly, there was devastating heat from the fires.)

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That’s a lot of stone and brick and steel beams and huge wooden beams that are going to crash into the river.

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