Lehigh Valley

Sinkhole opens under driveway and backyard in Bethlehem Twp.

Sinkhole opens, swallows driveway and backyard

BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. - A gaping sinkhole has swallowed part of a family's backyard and driveway, and there may be more problems below the surface.

Officials say the sinkhole in Bethlehem Twp., Northampton Co., may span a half a block. Crews were digging Monday and estimate the crater is about 100 feet wide and up to 40 feet deep.

Local authorities are urging caution when walking or driving in the area between Second and Third streets south of Wilson Avenue, and say more sinkholes could form.

It's making life uncertain for folks who live nearby.

Doris Jenkins wasn't planning to fix up her home, but it seems she may have to.

"The side of the house is sinking in, it's shifting," explained Jenkins. "And we have cracks in the walls and stuff."

She'll need a new driveway as well. A massive sinkhole opened up on her property Sunday, devouring part of her yard and the road. Jenkins thought she, her daughter and granddaughter would be out of her home for two weeks, but they were allowed back in after just one day.

"We're happy to be back home, really, so you know we'll take it from here," shared Jenkins.

Last week, township crews repaired a break in a 36-year-old sewer pipe nearby. They now worry more breaks on the force-main could be the reason for the sudden sinkhole.

Several smaller ones have opened up nearby. A temporary line is in place until they can lay new pipe. Workers excavated the sinkhole all day Monday, pouring concrete to stabilize the pit.

"They're digging to find out the extent of depth where the sinkhole is running, how deep it really is," described Bethlehem Twp. Fire Marshal Stephen Gallagher.

The area's limestone base makes the Lehigh Valley a hot spot for sinkholes. Experts say weak acidic water in the ground dissolves the limestone and caverns form.

They hope no other homes are in danger, but neighbors aren't in the clear yet.

"Yeah I'm worried," added Dave Thoder. "You think well maybe it's going to happen other places."

"You're just scared," shared Karen Leschinsky. "It was very scary."

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