Irrigation water through gopher tunnels blamed in deadly Idaho sinkhole incident

by Michael Mosher on July 20, 2012

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Idaho authorities say a woman died after her car fell into a large sinkhole that was likely the result of gophers. 

The incident occurred last Saturday, when a section of roadway 15 feet wide and 40 feet long collapsed, killing 32-year-old Sonia Lopez of Melba, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported. 

Nampa Highway District Director Casey Bequeath says irrigation water from a nearby field funneling through gopher tunnels that were dug beneath the street, likely caused the sudden collapse and sinkhole. 

Officials estimate the time of the deadly crash occurred between 4 and 4:30 a.m. PDT Saturday. 

Bequeath says it is difficult to detect such problems ahead of time and that transportation officials had no idea the road was going to collapse. 

Gophers are small rodents that range from about 5 to 10 inches long. They come in a variety of colors but are most often greyish brown to brown.  

They are known for building complex underground tunnel systems that have had a history of destroying lawns, killing trees and destroying gardens. They use their front legs and long teeth to push dirt out of their tunnels and onto the grass above. 

Bequeath said despite the structural risk posed by gopher tunnels, they’re all but invisible until after the damage is done. 

Highway crews completed repairs to the damaged stretch of road on Tuesday.

Full article…here

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