By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
W.hen the ground fell in next to Celosia Way on July 7, just off Country Kitchen Road, it took half the northbound lane with it and left cracks radiating all the way across the rest of the road and into the paved driveway across the street.
The sinkhole that resulted is about 100 feet across and about 15 to 20 feet deep, Lonnie Thigpen, Director of the Madison County Road Department, told the County Commissioners at their July 9 meeting.
“Right now, we’re just trying to keep everybody out for the safety of the public,” said Thigpen. The road has been blocked off from Country Kitchen Road to Coffee Way with wooden barricades, yellow tape and large cement barriers. Only one homeowner, who lives directly across the road from the sinkhole, needs access in and out of the area, and the Road Department has allowed a way for him to enter and leave.
As for when the damaged road can be repaired, it’s not quite that simple.
“A 100-foot hole by 20 foot deep, that’s a different story,” Thigpen told the commission. For even small depressions in roads, backfilling or injecting cement into the cavity and building the road back up can be an incredibly expensive proposition, and a hole this size, provided it is even stable enough to be filled, would require truckload after truckload after truckload of cement to fill what could be a “gymnasium-sized cavity.”
However, it’s too dangerous to get people with heavy equipment in there until they know what, if anything, is underneath all that collapsed earth. Thigpen wants to get geological experts to come out and inspect the area with radar to make sure the hole isn’t sitting on top of an even bigger cavern below.
If it turns out the hole can’t be filled, the options tossed out included rerouting the road or having it end in a cul-de-sac both ways; someone suggested a bridge, but even a bridge would have to rest on something. Meanwhile, attorney Tommy Reeves suggested that the county check with its insurance carrier to see if there was any help that could be gained from that quarter. A further complication is the sinkhole lies partly on county property and partly on private property, meaning that the county will have to figure out how this would affect the funding.
“It’s going to be time-consuming whatever we do,” said Thigpen. “Our best option is to let the experts come in and tell us what we need to do.”