Massive sinkhole opens in Sandy neighborhood, swallows resident’s yard

Feb 1, 2024, 4:03 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2024, 5:13 pm

SANDY — Repairs are underway in Sandy after a water main break created a large sinkhole in a couple’s front yard.

The sinkhole, that developed Wednesday night on Silver Sage Drive is now about 25 feet wide and anywhere from 15 to 25 feet deep.

“They actually didn’t find the bottom, it went beyond the extent of our equipment,” said Tom Ward, Sandy city’s public utilities director.

The owners of the property, Alta and Gene Cunliffe, discovered the water main break Wednesday around 6 p.m. while checking the mail.

“I tapped out towards the gutter, and it was all mushy,” Gene Cunliffe said.

He called the city and returned to check on the issue, only to find it had quickly progressed.

“Water was coming up about that high (indicating several feet), and it went clear across the street and through the whole neighborhood,” he said.

According to city officials, the recent freezing and thawing temperatures caused an 8-inch water main near the road to completely split. Ward said the amount of water it released was the equivalent of several fire hydrants being opened underground.

“When water can create the Grand Canyon and some of the great beautiful parts of southern Utah, it can also mine out a huge cavern underneath someone’s landscape and, in the process, take out some of the other utilities down there,” Ward said.

The cavern that was created led to the sidewalk, flower boxes, and tools on the Cunliffe’s property all disappearing into the ground. On Thursday, the couple pulled up their lawn chairs and watched as crews tried to dig them out.

“I asked the operator, ‘If you strike oil in there, I get 50%!'” Gene Cunliffe said.

Ward said the sinkhole became so deep at one point, crews couldn’t find the broken sidewalk or the broken pieces of the pipe.

“We never know which water main breaks are going to be a doozy, and this one was a big one,” Ward said.

As the sinkhole grew on Thursday, so did the problems for the Cunliffes, who discovered the water main break also caused the sewer line to break.

“Because the sewer line was affected, we had the sewer back up into our basement,” Gene Cunliffe said.

At 91 years old, Gene Cunliffe said the events of the past 24 hours have been stressful. And he’s praying the bad luck doesn’t truly come in threes.

“The only thing that could happen is a fire, that’s the only thing left!” he joked.

The water main has been paired and water has been restored to the area, but repairs on the sewer line could take between one to three days, according to Ward. He said because it was the city’s pipe that split and caused all the damage to the Cunliffe’s property, the city will repair the damage.

“Sandy city has been very helpful so far, stating they would take care of everything,” Gene Cunliffe said. “The help we’ve received so far has been really good.”

Sandy officials say water has been restored to all 35 impacted residents by Thursday evening, but it would take about three days to fully repair the damages.

Contributing: Andrew Adams, KSL TV

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Massive sinkhole opens in Sandy neighborhood, swallows resident’s yard