A sinkhole opened late last week on the property of SunTrust Bank in downtown Suffolk. The hole, seen in the foreground of this picture under a barricade, was only 16 inches wide as of Monday afternoon but could grow. Cracks and sunken areas seen in the background also appeared in the last week.
A sinkhole opened late last week on the property of SunTrust Bank in downtown Suffolk. The hole, seen in the foreground of this picture under a barricade, was only 16 inches wide as of Monday afternoon but could grow. Cracks and sunken areas seen in the background also appeared in the last week.

Archived Story

Sinkhole opens on bank property

Published 11:23pm Monday, April 15, 2013

SunTrust officials are thankful a sinkhole that opened up on their downtown property late last week did not injure anybody before it was discovered.

It first attracted attention Thursday, when a customer came into the bank and told employees there was a pothole on the North Saratoga Street driveway that leads to the bank’s drive-through teller.

An employee put a cone over the pothole, and branch manager Gail Williams called the bank’s facilities department. By the time the worker arrived Friday morning, the opening on the surface had expanded and revealed the caved-in subsurface.

A contractor went down a nearby manhole and reported that he could see a stone archway and that he could see several yards in a northwesterly direction, toward the street.

Other cracks and sunken areas have formed around the open pavement since then, Williams said.

“I’m just so very thankful, because as late as Friday morning, we still had people driving across this,” Williams said.

The hole had expanded to about 16 inches wide by Monday afternoon.

When the bank realized the cone was not deterring people from driving or walking down the driveway, they barricaded it with a slew of sandwich-board type reflective signs. They also closed the drive-through teller’s window and moved that employee inside to handle the increased walk-in traffic.

Williams said she has received some calls about the inconvenience, but most folks have been understanding once they learned why the driveway is closed.

“I’d rather have people get a little upset than have somebody get hurt,” she said.

Randall Orndorff, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center, said sinkholes can be either natural or induced by man’s activities. Though he hasn’t examined SunTrust’s sinkhole in person, sinkholes in this region of Virginia that occur in an area with aging underground infrastructure are likely attributable to the void underneath the surface.

“The soil above leaks into it, and soon it can’t hold its weight anymore,” Orndorff said. “Our infrastructure’s just aging in this country.”

Williams said the bank will reopen its drive-through teller as soon as the surface and underground damage are repaired.

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