Public works and safety officials said Thursday that they are still trying to determine what caused a 40-foot-deep sinkhole to open up in a residential neighborhood in north western Rapid City.
The crater gaping in front of a home on the 300 block of Whitewood Street was said not to have grown any wider by late Thursday afternoon but continues to erode beneath the surface.
As a result, the street remains closed to traffic from West Rapid to West Omaha streets without any indication of when it will reopen. Barricades closing off West Omaha Street from National to Sturgis streets were still in place by late Thursday evening as well.
"With the sinkhole remaining active … we can’t determine a timeline for when we would open up to traffic at this point," City Spokesperson Darrell Shoemaker said in a telephone interview late Thursday.
The sinkhole was first reported to the Police Department shortly before 6 a.m. by the occupant of the house that sits beside it. Stretching from the sidewalk and into the street, the sinkhole grew throughout the morning as police officers and firefighters cordoned off the area. It reached a width of more than 25 feet by the end of the day.
No injuries or car crashes were caused by the sudden formation of the pit, the likes of which Shoemaker said have not been seen since the early 1980s.
According to the city's Public Works Department, the sinkhole is not believed to have occurred as a result of an infrastructural failure as it did not form near an active water line. Excessive rainfall the area has endured as of late is not believed to be a factor in its formation.
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Despite drawing representatives from Black Hills Energy, the Montana-Dakota Utilities Company and the city's Water Division to the scene, Shoemaker said the city is not aware of any disruptions in residential water, sewer and power service in the area. A gas line serving an apartment building on Omaha Street had to be shut off, however, and was not operational as of Thursday evening.
While local public safety agencies had vacated the neighborhood by the end of the day, Shoemaker said police plan to increase their patrol presence in the area through the night.
Although no evacuations are planned, some residents who walked to the closed-off sections of their neighborhood expressed a sense of unease upon observing the sinkhole.
Joe Avvampato, who owns Avvampato Design Group and lives around the block from where it formed, said he has seen depressions along National Street that he worries could one day collapse as well.
"It's kind of scary," he said. "I've seen this happen before in other cities I've lived in. I don't think something like this is really preventable. It's hard to say."
Public Works Director Dale Tech was quoted in a press release as saying no other sinkholes have been reported to the city.