Highway safety concerns on state highway 69 in Picher

Thursday, December 15th 2005, 5:09 pm
By: News On 6

US Senator Jim Inhofe calls it a catastrophe waiting to happen. A sinkhole has opened up beside a US highway in Ottawa County.

News on 6 reporter Joshua Brakhage went to Picher to inspect the sinkhole.

Lifelong Picher resident Wanda Osburn crosses a stretch of road on a daily basis. She knows full-well the mines shafts that cross the area too. Now, signs of the danger beneath are beginning to surface. "It's a tunnel underneath there and it could cave in any time. They say even if they try to fill that one hole, it might open up other places around there."

A sinkhole, just yards from US highway 69. It sits above the honeycomb of mines that's caused so many problems for the people in the Picher area. John Sparkman: "It's going to cave in. It may be tomorrow, it may be 5 years from now. No one can tell that. So in the interest of public safety, they need to stop all truck traffic on that highway right now."

The sinkhole was discovered in March. It's 5 to 6 foot deep and 12 to 15 foot across. So far, it's far enough from the road it hasn't caused problems on the highway. But politicians, geologists, and residents here worry the problem is only getting worse, and not better.

The ground is still unstable and resident’s feelings are still unsteady. Wanda Osburn: "We have lived here so long and everybody says there's nothing wrong, but there really is, there really is something wrong here."

The US Army Corps of Engineers just wrapped up a month-long survey of the sinkhole. They presented the results of their investigation to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Friday.

The Corps says ODOT will start their own analysis next week to determine what should be done with the highway.