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Road Department Coordinator Lonnie Thigpen asked the Madison County Commission on Wednesday, July 23, to approve a $15,000 work order to have an engineering firm go out to the sinkhole off Celosia Way to help determine A) what lies under the sinkhole, B) is the ground stable enough to repair the road, and C) even if repair is possible, will it cost more to repair the road than the road is worth, meaning it might have to be cut off and made into a cul-de-sac both ways.
The sinkhole, which opened up next to the road sometime Monday afternoon, July 7, measured about 100 feet across and about 15-20 feet deep. It claimed about half of one lane and sent cracks radiating across the rest of the road.
The road is now blocked off to all traffic. Only the homeowner who lives directly across the road from the sinkhole is allowed to enter and leave around the barricades.
At the July 9 County Commission meeting, Thigpen had warned the commissioners that any repairs undertaken would be a “long, drawn-out process,” since before anything could be done, the Road Department had to determine what lay underneath all that collapsed earth – stable ground or another cavern? Until that was known, it was too dangerous to send in men with heavy equipment. “There could still be a cavity under that road,” he said at the July 23 meeting. “It could be two feet deep or it could be 50 feet deep.”
There is just no way of knowing until the engineering firm completes its site testing with borings and ground-penetrating radar. The ground stability study will focus mainly on the roadway itself and the county’s right-of-way property on each side, to see if what is still there will stay put in the future.
The firm can begin its work within a couple of weeks, and Thigpen hopes to have the results, along with the estimated cost for any corrective action, ready for the commissioners’ consideration by their first meeting in September, which will be Wednesday, Sept. 10.
Meanwhile, the hole appears to be holding its own. “I try to go by there every two or three days and check on it,” said Thigpen. The cracks in the roadway seem to have gotten a little wider, as the sloping sides of the sinkhole pull away and start settling towards the center, but it doesn’t appear to be growing.
The commissioners unanimously approved the engineering firm’s work order.