BOISE -- Here in Idaho, sinkholes can happen as the ground thaws from winter's freeze.

Scientists say sinkholes typically are caused by heavy water flows under roads -- and sometimes from rain and flooding, or even tunneling animals.

Just last week, several cars were engulfed by a sinkhole that opened up under a Chicago neighborhood street.


Yet, while Idaho has strong soil, according to geologists, we aren't safe from sinkholes.

In fact, last July a Melba woman died when she drove her can into a sinkhole that she didn t even notice on Butte Road, near Marsing.

The sinkhole near Marsing

Winter is rough for our roads because of the water, said Dan Bryant, the Maintenance Coordinator for the Idaho Transportation Department.

In the spring, his road crews head out looking for changes in the roads they patrol on a regular basis. They are looking for stretching asphalt or a bend, or dip in the road, even too many potholes in one area.


So we are looking for issues for that and whatever else went wrong during the winter, he said.

When a crew finds something, Bryant said they have to act at once, to keep drivers from getting hurt.

First thing is to figure out how deep it is, and reroute traffic around it, (even if) we have had to close roads, said Bryant. We had to close Highway 55 for a sinkhole one time.

He said that particular fix, took about a week.

Crews say sinkholes can happen on major highways, country roads and even in the middle of town.

Reed Hollinshead, a spokesperson with the Idaho Transportation Department recalls an in town sinkhole.

A couple of decades ago I think it was right here in town, Ustick and Cole, that there was no warning at all and the road just gave way, he said.

No one was hurt, but he said drivers can help road crews by looking for simple signs.


Especially, commuter drivers can help us out because they drive the same route everyday too, and if all of a sudden they notice a bump or a dip where there didn't used to be one, yeah we would appreciate a call, said Bryant.

If you want to report a sinkhole, call the Idaho Transportation Department at 208-334-8300.

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