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Given topography, earth likely to open in area once again
By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The battle to fill the sinkhole to end all sinkholes has ended, until it possibly happens again.
Kenny Wakeman, the project manager for General Excavation Inc., said that Oranda Road, less than a mile west of U.S. 11, near Carmeuse Lime & Stone, should reopen today after being closed since April 16 because of an old sinkhole that opened again after heavy rains. For the Warrenton-based excavators, the latest version of the hole was the largest, at about 50 feet deep and 75 feet across, the company has ever worked on, he said.
The average sinkhole the near 30-year-old company fixes is about 30 feet deep.
"This one was huge," Wakeman said, "to say the least."
General Excavation worked on the same spot in June 2009. That hole was 25 feet long, 50 feet wide and 25 feet deep on the west side of the road, and was across from a hole along the edge of Oranda that was repaired only a week earlier.
The area's topography seems to make it susceptible to collapsing, Wakeman said, meaning there is no certainty that Oranda has seen the last of its sinkholes.
"I'm not going to put a paycheck on that," he said. "There's no rhyme or reason to it."
There is a standard process the company, which the Virginia Department of Transportation contracted for the job, uses to combat sinkholes, but the Oranda obstruction allowed for plenty of room for departure. Among the differences in this roadwork were having to excavate around a gas line on one side of the hole and pour a 1-foot layer of concrete before dumping backfill in.
The concrete, which VDOT requested to strengthen the fill, delayed the reopening of Oranda. Wakeman said crews poured the concrete April 20, but needed to wait for it to cure before backfilling the hole. Carmeuse donated rock that was used until the concrete cap was poured.
Stacy Sager, VDOT's Edinburg residency maintenance project manager, could not be reached for comment, but Staunton District spokeswoman Sandy Myers said she spoke to him Tuesday and he reported progress with the project. The department's Virginia 511 website advised, as of April 22, that Oranda would not open until Friday night.
Wakeman said the region has its share of sinkholes because of the lay of the land, but Oranda stands out.
"This one's bigger and deeper than any," he said.