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Sinkhole diverts University traffic, threatens Drane Street

April 1, 2002

Austin Peay faculty, staff and visitors attempting to turn onto Drane Street have found their path blocked by a convoy of heavy equipment.

The saga began last Tuesday when city workers were using a backhoe to pluck up chunks of pavement and locate the source of a break in a major waterline.

Things got interesting when the pavement around the dug-out area caved in, creating a 25-foot hole. The cave-in apparently was caused in part by massive erosion from a separate leak, this one by a storm-water and sewage line. It soon became clear that the real problem was another in a series of massive sinkholes for which the area has become famous. In fact Clarksville is one of the most sinkhole-prone cities in the world.

By Friday, the hole was eating up five lanes of traffic on College Street, and workers spotted another potential problem: sagging pavement on Drane Street.

Another sinkhole, pronounced Dr. Phil Kemmerly, chair of Austin Peay's geology department.

"There's significant evidence of a void under that east lane. The evidence is just going to grow over the weekend," he said in an article in "The Leaf Chronicle."

Which it did. City workers continued their efforts to repair water and sewer lines and fill the cavernous hole over the Easter weekend. Rain added to their difficulty.

City Civil Engineer Jack Frazier said they would tear into Drane Street and "see what we've got" as soon as the College Street opening was filled.

Engineer Denzil Biter said he expects the street will remain closed through tomorrow, and perhaps longer.

"We are very lucky a car didn't drive over that and fall through," Don Jenkins of Jenkins and Wynne told "The Leaf Chronicle" reporter Jill Cecil. Estimates of traffic counts for College Street run between 11,000 and 20,000 vehicles per day.