Crews Filling Giant Sinkhole is ‘Quite the Show’ for Spectators

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A sinkhole that swallowed a Des Moines front lawn Wednesday is about to disappear.

Neighbors began noticing the sinkhole at 4103 SW 5th St. about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday when it consumed a hedge.  About seven hours later, the hole had expanded dramatically, consuming a 35-foot tree.

Marilyn Bender is the homeowner's sister. She said it's scary when she thinks about how it could have happened while her brother was in his yard.

"He said was standing over the top of that the day before yesterday," Bender said. "  And I said, "Well if the ground started shuttering, would you have just watched it happen or would you have run away?' He didn’t really have an answer for that."

That 35-foot tree that's now only seen sticking out of the 40-foot trench was the first thing to Thursday as the city filled the sinkhole. before and after

"We thought the tree was going to be extracted a lot easier but were finding out when we grab the base of the tree I didn’t come out as easy as we thought," said Chuck Burrell, of Des Moines Public Works. "Now were in the process of manually getting the tree out of there, cutting it out. We thought it was going to be an easy extraction with the crane, so that has posed a small challenge but we're very resourceful, so we're going to continue to work at it."

While the extraction posed some issues for crews, it was a never-seen-before spectacle for those who came to watch.

"It's quite the show," said neighbor Rich Bishop. "I've never seen a tree like this pulled out of a hole before. I've always cut 'em down. I own a tree service myself, and I've been doing it for years. It's just something to see that something like this could suck up a whole big tree like it did."

Crews then put concrete at the bottom of the sinkhole and fill with rock, sand and dirt. The materials will have to be compacted to make sure they are stable.

"We'll use concrete first at the bottom of the hole. Then after it dries, we're going to come back with some man sand over top of that. After the man sand, we’ll put some rock on top of that. Then the final layer will be some dirt," Burrell said.

The entire process will take about two or three days and will cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"There could also be some federal money that's that there and some state money we found out that may be available as well. So there may not be any expense to the homeowner," Burrell said.

Burrell said they're talking to neighbors about the warning signs for sinkholes, even small ones.

"Check your yard. If you see any sort of small sinkholes beware. We had one homeowner say they had a fence post one day, then it was gone. They found out that was a mineshaft as well," he said. "We're telling the neighbors to be careful when the go out and do yard work to look to  see if there are sinkholes, then be aware of them."

Is there an abandoned coal mine under your property? You can find out more about abandoned coal mines in the Des Moines area here.

As for the homeowner, Bender said she has some advice for her brother.

"Darrel should sell the sticks on eBay from the sinkhole. I don’t know, maybe we’ll be even more famous."


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