Wednesday, 10 August 2011 14:03

Drivers lucky not to fall into sinkhole in Swift Current

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Denis Pilon and other Swift Current residents did their best to prevent people driving on Sixth Avenue Northeast from getting injured Aug. 6.

Believing the ground in the middle of the street was getting soft, Pilon, the city’s fire chief, got out of his truck and tried to help other people redirect traffic around the busy Swift Current avenue. Drivers, however, ignored the residents and continued driving up and down the avenue leaving the chief, who was off duty, to stand in front of vehicles forcing them to come to a stop.

Little did anyone know a sinkhole large enough for vehicles to fall into it was forming in the street. Luckily for drivers who ignored the work of locals trying to redirect traffic, no vehicles fell into the hole and nobody was injured.

“I don’t think people really understood what was there and (they thought) it looked like something they could drive around,” said Pilon. “Sometimes you just have to stand in front of vehicles and say ‘If you drive through there, you’re going to get hurt.’”

The sinkhole opened up around 3 p.m. Aug. 6 on the 400 block of Sixth Avenue Northeast when a large diameter storm sewer pipe failed. The corrugated steel pipe, believed to be between 50 and 60 years old, developed holes and collapsed into itself approximately six metres below the street.

That caused the ground and part of the freshly-paved street to follow it below the surface.

Sewer and natural gas lines were exposed due to the sinkhole, but neither ruptured.

“I don’t think the gas line was in any danger at all because it was quite shallow,” said Mac Forster, Swift Current’s director of engineering. “Most of the damage was done at a deeper level.”

City crews quickly fenced off the hole and set up detours around Sixth Avenue Northeast before replacing that section of pipe across the roadway. They also looked at the rest of the storm sewer system both upstream and downstream from the roadway.

Crews put in extra time to repair the line and fill in the hole, with SaskEnergy workers standing by to make sure the natural gas line wasn’t affected. They were hoping to have the street open Aug. 12.

That section of the street, which was repaved in June, will be repaved to restore the surface once pavers return to Swift Current later this fall.

It is not currently known how much it cost to make all the repairs, but Forster estimated it to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Pilon believes that was luck that nobody was hurt when the sinkhole formed. He hopes people will learn from this experience and take the advice of helpful residents in the future.

“If somebody is flagging you down because there’s a hole in the road, maybe you need to stop and stay away from it,” said Pilon.

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