Tue July 10, 2012

Look At This Enormous Sinkhole Near Leadville

The Colorado Department of Transportation is reporting a giant sinkhole that opened up near Leadville on US24. Traffic is now diverting to Highway 91 near the gaping hole in the ground due to concerns it may grow.

The photo above really doesn't do the hole much justice at the angle it was taken. At a reported 45ft deep and caused by the heavy rains, the hole is best viewed directly as this photo posted to the CDOT Facebook page will attest to.

Picture posted by CDOT showing the view looking into the sinkhole.
Credit CDOT Facebook Page / CDOT

Reaction on the CDOT Facebook page was understated to the first picture, as user Susan Bibeau Bauer posted:

"This picture doesn't really look like a 20ft by 30ft by 45ft..."

Keep in mind that the standard traffic cone next to the hole in the first picture can be anywhere from 12" to 36" for comparative purposes. Once CDOT posted the picture to the right however, comments ranged from the surprised to the sublimely silly:

Ryan Lavigne Wow, that is amazing.

Tammy Adkins Good Gravy! You could lose a small state in that sinkhole! ;)

Leadville Today Did you find any old Leadville miners down there?

Marla Sterlace Bassett return of the jedi dessert [sic] monster. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarlacc

While there are traffic delays in the area due to only one lane being open, we're sure that those delays will only be due to efforts to repair the damage and not a giant monster hungry for Jedi.

Update 1:56pm: Traffic in the area remains one lane through only and heavy loads are not allowed. Oversize, commercial, and heavy loads need to use Highway 91 as an alternate route. With good reason too, the cause of the sinkhole turns out to be better than just heavy rain and water. As CDOT said in a release:

After thorough examinations of the sinkhole yesterday involving a variety of engineers, maintenance supervisors, and geological experts, it was determined that the sinkhole is actually a century-old railroad tunnel that collapsed decades ago. The depth of the hole is currently estimated to be about 100 feet, and since the depths reach so far into the earth, much of the soil was still frozen until very recently. When the soil thawed, the hole was exposed.

Update 3:05pm: US 24 is now closed north of Leadville. CDOT has closed the area completely near the sinkhole after further evaluation due to concerns that the sinkhole could expand. All traffic is now diverted to Highway 91.

Update 7/11/2012: We've learned a bit more about the old railroad tunnel that caused the sinkhole.