SEBRING — A large sink hole opened on Hammock Road Tuesday evening, causing havoc with commuters of the heavily traveled thoroughfare.
The hole opened directly in front of Hammock Estates mobile home park, between Roger and John L Streets, as a result of metal pipe failure and increased storm water. Road detours take traffic from Hammock Road to Lakewood Road to East Recreation Drive to Jacklin Avenue and finally, back out to Hammock Road.
Highlands County Road and Bridge crews were called out about 6 p.m. Tuesday to investigate the damage and try to patch it. James Goins, the county unit one maintenance supervisor, said that crews tried Tuesday night to fill in the hole with material in order to make it through the night but the material kept collapsing, forcing the road to be closed.
Road and bridge crews, along with Road and Bridge Superintendent Kyle Green, were out early Wednesday morning to inspect the sinkhole that had grown since the night before.
“We will have to dig it back to see what it looks like,” Green said. “We will be able to tell the best approach to fixing it. We have the metal pipe in stock and can do it quickly but we may want to see if we can use a pipe liner.
“The advantage of the pipe liner is that it will last forever and we don’t have to dig up the right of way to replace it. That section has the water, sewer, gas lines and more,” he said. “The disadvantages of that type of fix is that it would have to be subcontracted out and could take a while.”
Wednesday afternoon Green said the repair would be replaced with metal piping from the county. He said the road could be reopened Wednesday evening or Thursday. A county public service announcement stated Wednesday the road closure will continue until further notice with no through traffic at the site. Detours are currently posted.
An open ditch runs parallel to the roadway to the south and was up to the level of the mulch-purpose path. That water runs under Hammock Road and dog-legs south for several yards before heading north again and eventually ending up in Lake Jackson.
Green said the metal pipes normally last for 30 years in a good PH-balanced water and 20 years if the water is acidic. A metal pipe repair would cost anywhere from $15,000-20,000 and the pipe liner would cost roughly double that, according to Green.
The county will determine if the pipe and road failure are a result of Hurricane Irma. If it is found that Irma had a hand in weakening the drainage and asphalt infrastructure, the county can bill the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the repairs.
For more information, call the Highlands County Road and Bridge Department at 863-402-6529.