Tuesday morning a large pothole split open one entire lane of N.C. 268 Business in front of the Electronic Service Center, shutting down the highway from Powers Lane to the corner where Elk Spur Street and Austin Traphill Road meet. The sinkhole is expected to be fixed by Wednesday afternoon.
According to Elkin Police officers at the scene, the driver of a large truck traveling down N.C. 268 heard a loud bump. When he looked in the rear-view mirror, he noticed part of the road was missing. He then reported the problem to Elkin Police who reported to the scene along with N.C. Department of Transportation staff, immediately blocking all traffic both ways.
Although the hole in the road was the size of a small car, several additional feet of unsupported road could be seen. A significant amount of muddy water as well as chunks of the road were in the bottom of the large sinkhole.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Science School website, “A sinkhole is an area of ground that has no natural external surface drainage — when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface.” Sinkholes are usually formed because of the type of rock in the ground combined with the flow of water although other factors such as the weight of consistent traffic can also make an impact.
“Sinkholes are dramatic because the land usually stays intact for a period of time until the underground spaces just get too big,” states the USGS website. “If there is not enough support for the land above the spaces, then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur.”
A popular North Carolina tourist attraction is mining for gems. Although most in the Yadkin Valley are no longer in use, tunnels and mines have been located nearby due to the rich history of the area as can been found at https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mineral-resources/mrds-us.html. Those no longer in use have been secured so as to prevent collapses like sinkholes and other dangers while active mines are clearly marked and safeguarded.
At this time, it is not known what caused the sinkhole Tuesday.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.