Monday, February 16, 2009

Centralia, PA

On Saturday, I drove with 3 other urban explorer friends up to Centralia, PA for a weekend of exploring. Centralia was a coal mining town now razed to the ground due to a fire starting underground in 1962 which has never been extinguished. PA 61 above was warped and split open by the intense heat from below and had to be closed. It is now only accessible by foot. It was a chilly 40 plus degrees when we were there and the heat thrown up through the cracks was welcome but we had to be careful not to breathe in the fumes. I had visited Centralia 5 years previously and suffered intense headaches by evening so this time, we were more careful and even had respirators if needed.

Climbing up the bank, we could see the valley dug by the government in a futile attempt to extinguish the fire. It's suspected that a trash dump over an open seam of coal caught alight and started the whole process.
We headed to the side of the valley and parked Colin amongst the smoke and looked down onto what was left of the town. The hill was covered with plumes of smoke venting from holes in the ground. The heat was quite intense and I could not warm my hands over the holes for very long.

The government evacuated 3 homes in 1969 but nobody else was forced to move until an accident in 1981 when the ground opened up to a gaping 150ft under a young lad and he was saved from certain death by his cousin who pulled him to safety.

In 1983, the government started buying out the homes and evacuating the town as the fire had spread under 350 acres. By 1991, this had increased by three quarters.

The worst case scenario was predicted at 3700 acres and in 1991 61 homes along Rte 61 were bought with no further plans to fight the fire. From 1962 - 1984 seven million had been spent. A government buyout was proposed and accepted by the homeowners' vote by 345/200.

The side of the valley is rife with evidence of demolished homes, burnt timbers, flooring overgrown with mosses and broken household objects.

The steam venting into the air seems to encourage a lot of moss and lichens which hold thousands of water droplets on the tips of their fronds, like jewels set in crowns. There was also a beautiful little red flower which seemed to like growing in the humid atmosphere.

This is the last remaining street sign left in Centralia, and the town no longer has a zip code.

All of the town's once busy streets have now been reduced to a grid pattern of neglected roads that used to lead to homes. The occasional set of steps that once marked a path to a front door and a railing that once helped a homeowner to the street can be seen.

There are only a few scattered homes in the town and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now owns these, yet the residents still pay property tax.

We found an abandoned house and quietly walked the rooms, respecting the fact that we would be some of the last people to walk on floorboards in Centralia. At the last census in 2007, there were only 7 people remaining in the town; in 1997, there had been 44. Until these last people leave, the future of Centralia is uncertain and the state is showing compassion for these final tenants.


greg said...

Amazing stuff and you just have to feel for the remaining people left in this creepy abandoned town. Colin has a suggestive number plate which is nice !!

Headache Centralia said...

nice shot