Massive sinkhole threatens to swallow West Virginia police department

Nov 19, 2022, 11:56 AM
A massive sinkhole is seen leaving parts of the police department building hanging over the edge....
The sinkhole began in June when a nearby drain was failing. It was just six feet wide in June. (West Virginia Department of Transportation)
(West Virginia Department of Transportation)

(CNN) — A huge sinkhole has opened up right next to a West Virginia police department, disrupting traffic and requiring several schools to move their classes online.

The sinkhole, located on West Virginia Route 20 right next to the police department, is a long-standing problem in Hinton, West Virginia. When the sinkhole first opened up in June, it was just 6 feet wide and about 30 feet deep, according to a news release from the West Virginia Department of Transportation. Officials said that the original collapse was due to a failing 90-year old drain beneath the road.

Crews from the West Virginia Division of Highways installed “fill material” under the road, but earlier this month, rains from Hurricane Nicole washed out the fill and made the sinkhole even bigger, says the news release.

On Saturday, the West Virginia Division of Highways will begin installing a 125-foot temporary bridge over the sinkhole. Traffic will be redirected around the sinkhole for around 24 to 48 hours while the bridge is constructed.

But the bridge is only a temporary solution. Eventually, the department will have to install a permanent, 300-foot steel drainage structure under the road, says the news release. A construction contract for the structure will be open to bids soon and the project will likely cost the state around $5 million total, according to a Facebook post from West Virginia state Sen. Stephen Baldwin.

David Warvel, the superintendent of Summers County Schools in Hinton, told CNN via email that students in grades 6-12 switched to remote learning the past week due to the expansion of the sinkhole. Once the temporary bridge is in place, students will be able to resume in-person classes, he said.

Sinkholes typically form due to acidic rainwater that dissolves limestone or other soluble rock beneath the soil, according to previous CNN reporting. The eastern region of West Virginia, including Summers County, is made up of karst terrain, which is characterized by limestone or other soluble rocks and is prone to sinkholes, says the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey.

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Massive sinkhole threatens to swallow West Virginia police department