Cole County sinkhole gets bigger

Ernest Hartenstein has been forced to place fence panels and warning signs around the perimeter of a growing sinkhole on his farmland near the intersection of Zion Road along Route C. Hartenstein filled in the sinkhole after it formed last summer, but recent rain and snowmelt have brought it back and accelerated the hole’s growth.

Ernest Hartenstein has been forced to place fence panels and warning signs around the perimeter of a growing sinkhole on his farmland near the intersection of Zion Road along Route C. Hartenstein filled in the sinkhole after it formed last summer, but recent rain and snowmelt have brought it back and accelerated the hole’s growth.

A local farmer discovered a sinkhole on his land last summer, and because of rain and moisture, it has recently grown bigger.

Ernest Hartenstein, 1820 Zion Road, said the hole was a complete surprise to him. It measures more than 60 feet long and 15 feet wide and is full of water.

“I’ve lived here close to all my life and haven’t seen anything like it,” Hartenstein said.

He said he cut hay last June, and the sinkhole wasn’t there. But about a month later, it appeared. When it was first discovered, Hartenstein said he filled it back up with dirt.

Larry Benz, director of Cole County Public Works, said the county heard about the sinkhole through the grapevine.

“This is not common, not unless we’re dealing with some kind of structure underneath,” Benz said.

According to Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources, sinkholes are one of four main geologic hazards in the state. The hazards include sinkholes, earthquakes, landslides and abandoned mines.

A sinkhole is formed when the top of an underground void collapses.

Cole County falls along the edge of the Salem Plateau sinkhole region in the state.

“I know of one other one (sinkhole) just west of Jefferson City, but that was about 30 years ago,” Benz said.

Hartenstein has posted “no trespassing” signs and has put fencing around the sinkhole to warn people not to go near.

“I never dreamed of something like this happening,” he said.

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