One lane open after sinkhole closes highway near Leadville
July 10, 2012
LEADVILLE, Colo. – A 20-by-30-foot round sinkhole that is at least 45 feet deep closed U.S. 24 north of Leadville temporarily on Monday. One lane was opened after the damage was assessed.
Forty-five feet is as deep as Colorado Department of Transportation crews could measure Monday afternoon before engineers and geologists arrived, said Ashley Mohr, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
After about 45 feet deep, the hole starts to curl back under the highway, sort of like an asphalt-eating serpent. They’re not entirely certain how far it curls under the highway, Mohr said, they’re just certain that it does.
The sinkhole is almost exactly halfway between Red Cliff and Leadville, on the north side of Tennessee Pass.
Geologists rolled in Monday afternoon from Denver to take a look, Mohr said.
“Our engineering crews are having a look at it,” Mohr said.
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Sinkholes are caused by fragile land. That land moves around and hollows out at a faster pace in some places than in others, Mohr said.
Heavy rains over the last few days, after months of dry weather, could have triggered the sinkhole, Mohr said.
“It could be caused by running water, and we’ve had some of that. It could be a mine under there. It could be just about anything,” Mohr said.
For those curious about this sort of thing, it’s the second sinkhole in recent years.
In June 2003, a huge sinkhole collapsed the westbound lane of Interstate 70 above East Vail. Hundreds were evacuated from their homes overnight.
That one was caused by pretty much the same thing this one was, lots of water rushing into a small space. Heavy runoff washed out a culvert and opened a 20-foot wide sinkhole.
It shut down a 24-mile stretch of I-70 between Copper Mountain and Vail.