This is a San Diego Union-Tribune story from March 4, 2000. A newspaper is a great way to learn things because everyday there are stories about the past day's events. This story in particular is about a couple's house that was hit by a gigantic boulder.
Removal of Gigantic Boulder is Next Step For Family
By Kristen Green
March 4, 2000
It spared their china collection and family photos.
But engineers say the gigantic boulder that landed smack dab in the middle of Cindy and Sam Sutherland's family room did a number on their East County home's foundation and support beams.
The 15-year-old house may need to be demolished and rebuilt.
"It took a big blow," said Cindy Sutherland.
You can say that again.
It took a BIG blow.
The boulder that landed in their three-bedroom house weighs about 130 tons and is about 14 feet wide, rock experts say. That's more than triple the size originally estimated.
The boulder destroyed one-third of the couple's home in Cottonwood, east of El Cajon, as it flew over a fence, crushed their Jacuzzi and hopped into their house. This all happened while the couple was miles away on a ski trip.
The good news for the Sutherlands -- the very good news -- is that insurance is picking up the tab.
But before they decide whether the house should be rebuilt, the rock must go.
The Sutherlands met with a geotechnical engineer and insurance agents yesterday to discuss the rock removal options.
In the first method, a series of holes are drilled into the rock. Water is poured into the openings, and then gas cartridges are shot into the holes with a small gun, said geotechnical engineer Balakrishna Rao.
The pressure of the gas compresses the water, and the water applies pressure to the rock, causing it to fracture. The fracture happens almost instantaneously, and large chunks of rock that weigh a couple of hundred pounds break off, Rao said.
The second option also calls for drilling a series of holes into the boulder. Chemicals are inserted into the holes this time, followed by water, which causes the mixture to crystallize. Within 24 hours, the rock fractures, Rao said.
Next week, insurance agents for the United Services Automobile Association will get estimates for the work. And then representatives will meet with the Sutherlands Friday to decide which method to use.
"Much like the boulder, we're breaking a lot of new ground here," said Roger Wildermuth, spokesman for United Services. "I'm not sure you'll find boulder demolition in the Yellow Pages."
Maybe not in California. But insurance agents are talking with a company in Denver that specializes in big, big rocks. It calls itself -- get this -- Boulder Busters.
The Sutherlands will have a better idea of the extent of the damage to the foundation and beams once the boulder is broken up and carted off. Engineers will then be able to test to see whether the house is structurally sound.
The rock landed in the Sutherlands' house early Feb. 22. It broke off from a larger boulder and rolled down the hill behind the house. Experts say heavy rains the previous week washed away the sandy debris around the rock, and gravity caused a part of it to break off.
This week the Sutherlands, both 53, sorted through all their ruined possessions, from the washer and dryer that were crushed to the pool table that was overturned. The junk was hauled away.
Movers packed all of their belongings, including the china and crystal that survived the impact of the rock, and placed them in storage.
Sam Sutherland returned to work as a dentist. And Cindy Sutherland, a former embroidery shop owner, took on rebuilding their home as a full-time job.
The couple picked out a three-bedroom apartment nearby and rented furniture to fill it. But Cindy Sutherland feels guilty.
"I don't want to leave the house," she said. "I feel sorry for the house."
She'll feel even sadder if the wrecking ball is called in.
"We don't want to see it torn down, but we don't want to live in it structurally unsound," she said.
If they are forced to raze the house, Cindy Sutherland vows to rebuild it exactly the same.
Copyright 2000 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.