Cole County Sinkhole Expands, Neighbors Concerned

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COLE COUNTY - A sinkhole near Jefferson City expanded to about 60 feet long and 15 feet wide on Tuesday. Officials said recent snow and rain likely caused the hole to grow so quick.

"Moisture is the culprit behind 90 percent of them. What's probably happened is water has gone down through it and taken more material with it, gotten the crack bigger to where it's just increased in size," said Larry Benz, director of Cole County Public Works.

The man who owns the land chose not to speak on camera and would not allow KOMU 8 reporters on the property, but briefly stated on the phone that he first noticed a small hole last summer. Since then, the hole has more than tripled.

People who live nearby said they are concerned the sinkhole will continue to grow.

Jason Williams lives just up the road from the sinkhole. "I never would have thought anything like that would be around here," Williams said. "It really kind of scares me, definitely with it being that close. You never know if it's going to extend across the highway and come over here." 

Williams said if the sinkhole expanded too far, he would find another place to live. "I've got two little kids and I can't worry about their safety, being right around it, if it does expand or come up this far, or if another one forms," Williams said.  

However, Benz said the chances of more sinkholes like this one happening in the mid-Missouri area are slim. Benz said he thinks the last sinkhole in Cole County was more than 30 years ago, just outside Jefferson City. "This area is really not known for them. There are a few here and there," Benz said. "We do have the limestone, which would lend itself to forming caverns underneath the ground." 

Benz said it would take an extensive drilling operation to determine if the sinkhole will spread. "With the location of this one, it's really not posing a problem except to the landowner with his livestock," said Benz. 

After news about a sinkhole in Florida, people are more concerned. "We don't have near the problem like what they have down in Florida," Benz said. "I know it's on everybody's mind with what happened down there but around here, it's not something I would spend time worrying about. I don't see it happening on a regular basis around here." 

Benz said homeowners who are concerned about sinkholes around their home to contact the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.