Springfield family concerned after sinkhole opens up below part of their house

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo- The Gideon family has lived on South Fairway Avenue near Cherry Street for more than three years, but something happened at their home to add to their memories of 2020.

“A week ago on the 9th, I walked out the front door, and walked across the porch here and noticed that my mailbox was missing cause it’s typically right here. Walked a little closer and saw there was a gigantic deep hole,” says Athena Gideon.

Athena soon realized a sinkhole formed right next to her house and partially under her driveway. She reached out to the City of Springfield and Greene County officials to see if there was anything they could do. Both told her she’d have to get a geotechnical engineer since the hole is on private property.

“It is concerning that it is right next to their structure,” said City of Springfield Principal Stormwater Engineer Chris Dunnaway. “A lot of these we’ll respond to, they’re just out in the backyard, or maybe they’re in the right-of-way. When it’s right next to the house like that, they should be concerned.”

Athena and her family did find a geotechnical engineer to look at the damage. She says the engineer wrote a report detailing the cause and how to fix the hole. Both the report and Dunnaway suggested using gravel, starting from bigger rocks at the bottom to smaller rocks towards the top.

“In the end, there are no guarantees. We don’t really know what’s down there or around this hole,” says Athena.

This hole is part of a larger sinkhole area Dunnaway says. If you go to the City of Springfield’s website, you can search where sinkhole areas are around town and Greene County. The open hole at Athena’s home is part of a sinkhole area covering a circular area from Cherry Street, to Kentwood Avenue, to Fairway Avenue.

Courtesy: City of Springfield

Dunnaway says to think of this boundary as a bathtub.

“Those are what we call the topographic rim of the sinkhole. As those voids are created, the ground slowly sort of depresses and creates this bowl or bathtub. The outline is basically the top of that bowl,” says Dunnaway.

The Gideons live toward the higher edge of that bowl.

Dunnaway says that rainwater has played a role in creating these sinkholes over a few thousand years because of the geology of the ground in Missouri. Rainwater mixed with a downspout leading to the sinkhole area is what caused this hole at their house.

Once the hole is filled, Athena plans to repour their driveway to have it cover the area of the hole and connect to that part of the house. This process, though, has not been cheap and will not be cheap.

Athena says getting the engineer to come to look at the home cost $600, and required her husband to miss two days of work to meet with the engineer and contractors. The engineer told them the estimated cost of filling the hole would be between $15,000-$25,000 on top fixing their front porch and repaving their driveway. She looked into sinkhole insurance, which is $200,000, but only covers damage to the physical home. So it will not cover their costs.

Athena has reached out to area charities for financial support, and a friend of hers has created a GoFundMe to cover the costs. Both Athena and Dunnaway say to watch where your downspout is going, adjust it to avoid this same scenario, and if you are concerned about sinkholes to buy the sinkhole insurance.

“We love our house, and we love this neighborhood, we don’t want to go. Of course, now it’s a scary situation we might have to discuss leaving sooner than we want to maybe, just because it’s a big risk,” says Athena.

If you have sinkhole concerns, you can reach out to the City of Springfield’s Citizen Resource Center at 417-864-1010 to report these and other issues related to flooding.

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