Flooding opens sinkhole in Sheridan on second July in a row; Englewood fields storm drain questions

Reminiscent of the July 24, 2018, storm, Oxford Avenue sees closures

Posted 7/1/19

A forceful storm of whipping winds, hail and heavy rain brought flooding to the Englewood area, opening a sinkhole just outside the city’s border near South Santa Fe Drive and closing some …

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Flooding opens sinkhole in Sheridan on second July in a row; Englewood fields storm drain questions

Reminiscent of the July 24, 2018, storm, Oxford Avenue sees closures

Posted

A forceful storm of whipping winds, hail and heavy rain brought flooding to the Englewood area, opening a sinkhole just outside the city’s border near South Santa Fe Drive and closing some traffic at a major intersection.

Traffic shut down in multiple directions, with many closures being lifted at about 8:30 p.m. July 1, a few hours after Sheridan police announced that a sinkhole at the corner of Santa Fe Drive and West Oxford Avenue caused closure of eastbound Oxford and northbound Santa Fe in the area.

Flooding that swallowed the bottom half of a car also led police to close Oxford Avenue about a block east to South Windermere Street, according to another Sheridan police tweet. Flooding inundated the bowl-shaped Rotolo Park, a water-retention area about a mile to the southeast, under many feet of water.

The storm called attention to Englewood's storm readiness week before its city council is set to discuss a study of its storm drainage system — and about a year after a destructive flood that took one woman's life.

Sinkhole at Englewood pipe has history

The sinkhole, many yards long and several feet deep, opened along a storm drainage pipe that runs along Oxford Avenue in Sheridan. Another sinkhole opened along that same stretch of road on July 24, 2018, which caused road closures too. A car ended up in that sinkhole, and the driver was not injured.

A sinkhole opened up just west of that one in 2015 that a police car ended up in, according to Sheridan police. Despite it running through Sheridan, the City of Englewood owns the drainage pipe, which continues west to the South Platte River.

All three sinkholes were caused by that pipe, said Chris Harguth, a City of Englewood spokesperson.

"The storm water volume exceed the pipe's capacity, creating pressures that the pipe could not withstand," Harguth said.

Aubrey Sonsini, 68, who lives near South Wadsworth Boulevard in far southwest Denver, stood watching work crews examine the July 1 sinkhole. He was on his way to the nearby Englewood Recreation Center but pulled over to wait amid the closures.

“I think it’s a little ridiculous because I think the city engineers of all these (entities) need to get together and find a solution,” Sonsini said.

Englewood's western border with Sheridan runs roughly along Santa Fe Drive in that area. Englewood manages the Broken Tee Golf Course, a short walk west of the sinkhole. About four City of Englewood work trucks sat near the sinkhole that evening.

The storm didn't cause property damage or home flooding, to the city's knowledge, said Maria D'Andrea, Englewood's public works director.

Englewood eyes utility rate increase to fund infrastructure update

On July 2, construction vehicles were working on the repair related to the sinkhole, which is estimated to cost $100,000, according to D'Andrea.

About a year earlier in Englewood, a woman died July 25 after being pulled out of a flooded basement unit the night before a couple miles to the southeast, and several households received assistance by the Red Cross Colorado-Wyoming region due to that flooding.

That storm and its aftermath prompted questions about how prepared Englewood's infrastructure is to handle severe flooding. The city undertook a study of its flood-prone areas and storm drainage system, which is expected to be presented to the Englewood City Council on July 8.

As a "first-ring" suburb — one that touches the metro area's main urban city, Denver — Englewood was planned without much thought given to storm drainage, D'Andrea said at a news conference July 2 near the sinkhole.

"I don't think science was advanced enough to (account for storm drainage) when these homes were built in the 40s, 50s and 60s" in Englewood, D'Andrea said.

The city estimates it will need to spend between $45 million and $75 million to update its storm drainage system, which includes pipes and water detention sites. The city is discussing raising stormwater utility rates to fund the projects, but it doesn't yet have a specific percentage increase in mind, D'Andrea said.

"Our intent is to talk with (city) council on Monday," D'Andrea said. The city has about $950,000 in a fund dedicated to stormwater matters, called an enterprise fund, D'Andrea added.

The updates could include a new, concrete pipe along Oxford Avenue running through Sheridan to the Platte. The current, corrugated metal pipe was installed in the mid to late 1980s, D'Andrea said.

Rotolo Park could also see improvements to enable detention of more water, D'Andrea said.

Work on the pipe in the area of the sinkhole should be done in seven to 10 days, D'Andrea said.

The city is attempting to be more proactive about storm drain maintenance, including clearing hail and leaves from drainage inlets — grates or gutter holes — more consistently, D'Andrea said.

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