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Sinkhole Filled On Lawrenceport Road
Updated May 5, 2013 1:12 AM
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(LAWRENCEPORT) - Lawrence County highway crews were notified Tuesday afternoon after motorists reported there was a sinkhole that opened up on Lawrenceport and Stonington roads.

"All we can do is fill it in and hope for the best," says Highway Superintendent David Holmes. "There is just not a whole lot you can do when a sinkhole opens up."
Crews say, the hole was about a foot wide and two to three feet deep.

"They filled it with gravel and cold patch mix and pounded it in and cold patched it," Holmes says.

Terry West, a Purdue University professor of geological engineering says most Indiana residents don't need to worry about sinkholes like the deadly one that swallowed part of a home in Florida earlier this year. A man died after a large sinkhole opened up beneath his bedroom without any warning.

The Florida sinkhole was due to slow erosion of limestone bedrock. Though much of Central Indiana is safe from such sinkholes, the sudden events do threaten people who live on Indiana's Mitchell Plain, a stretch of limestone bedrock running south from Martinsville, through Bloomington and Bedford.

"That's where the limestones are exposed," he added. "They've had plenty of time to dissolve underground and then the surface can collapse and fall into the opening of the sinkhole."

Though homes are at risk in several states, there is little that can be done to avoid them.
"If you're in a limestone area then you have a possibility of it happening," West says. "But trying to guess where it's going to be located is not an easy thing to do."

Recent heavy rainfall has already led to extensive flooding across Central Indiana, but some are now concerned that the added pressure on storm sewers could lead to sinkholes.

Rainfall contributed to a massive sinkhole in Chicago last week, which swallowed three cars.

"Pretty scary when you looked at what the size of those holes were and the fact that you could fall into it," says West.

West has written extensively about sinkholes and says the increased rain creates the potential of similar events happening in Indiana.. Urban areas with aging pipes are always at risk when heavy rains put pressure on storm sewer systems, he added.

"If the storm sewer is very full, the velocity of the water tends to increase and can cause erosion," West says. "Then if you have any weak spots the sewer could actually collapse and you'd have a problem like they had in Chicago."

West believes urban development can contribute to sinkholes because irrigation systems and new wells lower the water table and open up empty pockets just beneath the surface.

Kent Erdahl of FOX59 news contributed to this story.

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