Culvert Failure Causes Massive Sinkhole near Damascus

Did you hear the one about the huge sinkhole that opened up on Hideaway Court near Damascus? Clackamas County officials say they are looking into it.

“Yes, we have been looking into it extensively,” county spokeswoman Kimberly Dinnwiddie said with a laugh.

Seriously, officials say the enormous cavity formed basically overnight between Sunday and Monday, when an approximately 50-year-old culvert under the roadway failed due to build-up of debris from the recent heavy rainfalls.

The sinkhole opened up on Hideaway Court, a dead-end street past the intersection of Hogan and Rugg roads, and affected about a dozen households.

The road is asphalt and has been a county road for only a couple of years, Dinnwiddie said. Previously it was maintained by the city of Damascus, which disincorporated.

Dinwiddie estimated the hole is at least six or seven feet deep.

“I know that if I stood in there, it would be well over my head, and I’m five feet,” she said.

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County road officials noticed some dimpling in the road in early January, and this Sunday, an engineer determined that the situation had deteriorated enough that it was no longer safe to drive on.

He advised all residents on that side of the dead-end road to move their vehicles to their other side so they would still be accessible. Sure enough, the road washed out the very next day.

“It’s certainly been a wild winter,” Dinwiddie said with a laugh. “First, we were plagued with the wildfires, then we were slammed with landslides and heavy rains. But for this winter, this is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced.”

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A failed pipe led to a large sinkhole in #Damascus and cut residents off from emergency services. We’ve been working with @clackamascounty to deploy the “Bailey Bridge,” an emergency bridge which crews put together by hand and roll into place. It’s pretty cool. pic.twitter.com/YMpbovEoJZ

The county, with the support of the Oregon Department of Transportation, is deploying a rarely used emergency bridge typically reserved for military use to help neighborhood residents get to and from their homes while they await permanent repairs.

Significant work will most likely be after June 1, due to the continuing rain challenges in the winter and spring, as well as the unknown environmental impacts on the creek and wildlife.

Dinnwiddie said the emergency bridge is known as a “Bailey bridge” — a type of portable, pre-fabricated bridge that was developed during World War II — and is typically used only once every 15 years or so.

“This really is a historic repair for Clackamas County,” she said. “And it’s not so much the size of the hole; it’s the fact that we have to use this temporary structure. Otherwise, people would be cut off from their homes for months as well as from potentially life-saving services and even garbage trucks.”

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