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Sink hole opens on St. Charles Avenue

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Public Works and Natchez Water Works employees inspect the sinkhole in the middle of St. Charles Avenue Monday morning.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Public Works and Natchez Water Works employees inspect the sinkhole in the middle of St. Charles Avenue Monday morning.

NATCHEZ — A portion of the 200 block of St. Charles Avenue collapsed Monday morning after a garbage truck drove over part of the road where two sewer service lines had collapsed.

Resident Paul Whitehead witnessed the collapse when he went outside to take his trash to the road after he heard the truck approaching.

“I was late, so I grabbed my trash bag and ran outside,” he said. “I got there when the truck drove over (where the road collapsed). It was lucky no one was hurt.”

Whitehead said the truck drove over a sagging part of St. Charles, then the road collapsed behind the truck.

Whitehead’s neighbor Pam Morace said she thought the truck had hit a car.

“We heard a big bang … and (there was) a big, gaping hole out there,” she said.

Morace and Whitehead said they previously reported that the road was getting weak to the city.

City Engineer and Natchez Water Works Superintendent David Gardner said he did not know about the problem on St. Charles until the road collapsed Monday morning.

“They may have reported it to public works, but I didn’t hear about it,” he said.

Gardner said he initially thought the collapse was caused by a bigger problem than collapsed service lines.

“I was worried it was a main line,” he said. “But it was two service lines that had collapsed, for some reason. I don’t know why.”

Gardner said Natchez Water Works put new pipe in for the service lines, which provide sewer service to nearby houses, and reconnected the service.

The hole, which was approximately 12-15 feet wide and six feet deep, was filled in with sand and topped with limestone until it can be repaired with asphalt, Gardner said.

Asphalt is hard to come by this time of year, Gardner said, because the asphalt plant at least partially shuts down during colder weather. It may be one or two months before the city can get asphalt to repair the street, and the temperature will have to be 55 degrees and rising, Gardner said, for conditions to be right to put down the asphalt.

Water Works would normally have to wait 72 hours by law for utility companies to come mark the location of utility lines, so excavating to discover the sewer problem would not bust a line, Gardner said.

Water Works, however, was able to get utility companies to come out within a couple of hours because of the emergency situation, Gardner said.

Whitehead and Morace said they are concerned that drainage problems in the neighborhood could result in more road collapses.

Whitehead said the road in front of his house is cracked, and he believes water washing down the hill toward the 300 block of St. Charles during rainy weather is going to create problems for the residents there.

“Sooner or later, they’re going to have big problems there, too,” he said.

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