Kenny Rogers was working in the service department at Darcars Kia of Frederick on Monday when a customer alerted him to a sinkhole that had opened near one of the dealership’s entrances.
If it hadn’t been for the quick thinking of that customer, Debbie Owens, things could have been a lot worse.
“If a car drove over that ... and we did not see this ... for sure, a car would have been in it, at the bottom,” Rogers said.
The sinkhole, roughly 5 feet wide, opened up in a high-traffic area where roughly 50 cars travel every day. One of those cars on Monday was driven by Owens, who had just traveled over the spot before getting an oil change, said her friend Bev Shanholtzer.
“She had just driven over the exact spot and was inside waiting,” Shanholtzer said. “She was shocked, to say the least.”
The sinkhole was one of at least two that had opened up in the county after storms Monday morning. Across from the Buckeystown post office, near Md. 85, there was one roughly 6 feet wide. By late afternoon, however, crews had filled it with concrete.
Sinkholes have been an issue in the city of Frederick and the county in the past. After last year’s flooding in mid-May, five sinkholes opened on the east side of Vermont Court near the Frederick Fairgrounds.
But it’s difficult for city and county officials to predict where sinkholes might pop up.
County officials keep a running list of known sinkhole areas that it keeps an eye on during large weather events and through the year. But it’s still challenging to tell where they might find a sinkhole.
“That list is kind of the low-hanging fruit for finding that out,” said Dave Olney, a project manager for the county’s Division of Public Works. “But if that hole hasn’t opened up yet, then it’s invisible.”
Because the county tracks only the sinkholes in county rights of way, it doesn’t have data to determine if they’re becoming more frequent, Olney said.
As of Monday evening, no sinkholes had been reported in county rights of way, said Robert Shen, department head of engineering and construction management for the county.
Residents or people in the community typically report sinkholes to the county. But since the county can fix only the sinkholes that are in county rights of way, sometimes county staffers have to tell residents there’s nothing they can do.
City of Frederick officials echoed the county’s statements.
“We cannot predict them, and can only respond when they occur on public property,” said Patti Mullins, a city spokesman. “We are not aware of any at this time, and we appreciate hearing from the public when they see a sinkhole in a road or on public property.”
Mayor Michael O’Connor said Monday that based on the geology of Frederick, and large areas of it sitting on limestone, there’s always a risk of sinkholes opening up.
“It’s a reality of the geology we’re on, and there’s no way to prevent them. So you just watch, and when you find out about one, you take all the precautions you can,” O’Connor said.
That’s what happened Monday at Darcars, which prevented any further damage from being done. Crews will start repairing the sinkhole Tuesday morning, he said.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said.
City Editor Allen Etzler contributed to this report.