Unicoi County

Emergency management still keeping close eye on Unicoi County sinkhole

UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. - Imagine a sinkhole inching closer and closer to your child's elementary school; that was the case in Unicoi County.

While that sinkhole has been filled and concerns are somewhat subsiding, Emergency management is still keeping a close watch on the area.

The playground outside of Love Chapel Elementary has been silent -- that's because just 20 feet away there's a sinkhole, one that's about 12 stories deep.

The rock you see inside the sinkhole today is keeping it from swallowing the school.

Back in August crews started working quickly once a call from a neighbor alerted police a sinkhole was growing. "A total of 1,300 tons of mixture of all sizes, some people around here call them Volkswagen-size boulders, brought in from the quarry in dump trucks and pushed into the hole," said emergency management director Ed Herndon.

Herndon says sinkholes are common in the county, but with the record-breaking amount of rain we've had in January there could be more problems when the rain settles. "[Rain] raises the water level and the speed of the water traveling underground," he said.

That could cause that sinkhole to spread, making matters worse. But so far things are still relatively safe.

As of right now students are split between Unicoi County Intermediate and Middle School, and the school board hopes there will soon be an answer about when kids can get back into Love Chapel Elementary.

For those homes with a backyard view of the sinkhole, homeowners say they're worried about property values going down. They do feel a sense of relief that the sinkhole has been filled. "It made me feel safer, because I think they're taking care of it. I think it'll be alright," said resident Jordan Vance.

Over the last few months a team of engineers, geologists, and insurance agents have been doing both seismic and floor-leveling tests. The school board is still waiting on those results, but no finish date has been set.

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