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Sinkholes causing havoc all over destroying pricesless 'Vettes and SUVs

This has been a bad year not only for potholes and cars but also for sinkholes and cars, according to CNN and NBC. Since Wednesday, at least eight priceless, rare Corvettes on view at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., have been swallowed by a sinkhole under the museum.
And, as recently as yesterday in Long Island, CNN also reported, that a sinkhole opened underneath a woman driver and her SUV as she tried to park for the evening in Long Island City and the result was that the SUV and driver were the sinkhole’s dinner.
Meantime, NBC reported a dog and her mistress were out for a walk last night and a sinkhole snared both the dog and its owner in Portland, Ore.
With hundreds of thousands of vintage iron on the line, the auto industry is trying to find out why the floor at the National Corvette Museum gave way to a 20 by 40 sinkhole that “ate” eight priceless Corvettes, two on loan from the manufacturer and the other six on loan from members of the prestigious motoring museum.
The Corvette Museum follows the development of the automotive icon from its days in 1953 as a plain two-seater, six with a three-speed on the floor to give the General a looker that could compete with European imports like the Jag XK-120 that were all the rage in many upscale circles.
Full range of Corvettes
One could never have predicted that a sinkhole would open under the Bowling Green, Ky., museum dedicated to this nation’s icon speedster. The eight-car Corvette exhibit that was eaten by the sinkhole included 2 irreplaceable factory-fresh ZR-6 models, a 1993 ZR6 Spyder and a 2009 ZR6 Blue Devil, as well as some irreplaceable ‘Vettes that were on loan from museum members. They included:
· An irreplaceable 1962 black Corvette, on loan from the estate of a museum member who had babied his ‘Vette since he purchased it 54 years ago.
· A 1984 Corvette PPG Pace Car.
· A 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette
· A 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette
· A 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette
· A 2009 white 1.5 Millionth Corvette
The museum’s executive director, Wendell Strode told NBC News and The WAVE that each of the cars that are now lining the bottom of the sinkhole “has a unique story…They are all special.” Take the 1962 Corvette that was babied by its late owner.
Babied in every way imaginable, the late owner never ran it unless the weather was sunny, during the summer.
Strode noted the 1962 was “immaculate in every way.” He also told NBC and the WAVE that the museum has complete insurance for all the iron that is displayed on its floor so the eight cars that are now lying at the bottom of a 20- by 40-foot sinkhole are covered, at least financially.
The question that has to be asked is how can you put a price on the irreplaceable?
(Note: this question is being asked by the author who, for nearly 40 years has followed the car industry and at one time was the dean of the Boston auto writing community. He had a 30-year column in Boston’s leading afternoon paper.)
Right now, the museum that attracts more than 150,000 visitors to the place where Corvettes are built is closed as structural engineers are going over the sinkhole and its damage to ensure the museum is safe.
The museum was first opened to the public in 1976. The sinkhole opened last Wednesday.
Real puzzler
Yesterday in Long Island City, N.Y., a real puzzler developed as a local driver pulled her SUV into the driveway of her home, only to find that at that very moment a four-by-eight-foot sinkhole opened as she pulled into her driveway. The sinkhole swallowed her vehicle whole, NBC noted.
That would be scary enough for most drivers, by the unidentified driver, kept her presence of mind and dialed 911 on her cellphone.
In a few minutes, the first department arrived, dropped a ladder down, and popped open the door and the motorist and any passengers climbed to safety.
A tow-truck and hooked the SUV out of the hole and they are investigating what happened.
In a non-automotive incident, a dog-owner was out walking her dog after dark Saturday night when she suddenly lost sight of her pet but she heard her canine barking for help.
As she walked up the street she found her dog in a 20-foot sinkhole that had opened in the street and it swallowed her. Neighbors called 911 to her calls for help.
They pulled her pet to safety and she climbed out safely, uninjured, but more than a little shaken.
One of the worries expressed by town and state engineers is that the number of potholes will increase this year due to two major factors the intense cold that has gripped Massachusetts and the rest of the East Coast, broken by sudden jumps to the 45 to 50 range and the amount of snow that has blanketed the state during 13 storms.
With another month or more left to winter with its bouts of cold air snow and rain – including one predicted for Wednesday by the National Weather Service Office in Taunton, Mass., the possibility for car-eating potholes is increasing.
(Potholes result when water drips into a crack in the asphalt pavement. This happens during a warm up. When the weather turns cold, the water that has filled the crack actually expands as it freezes and when the next thaw comes the weakened asphalt crumbles in on itself, forming a pothole.
If that pothole, engineers say, fills again with water that freezes it will only become larger. The result is a huge pothole that will only become larger as drivers inevitably hit the edges with their tires and wheels, taking more of the roadway with the impact, as well as damaging the tire and rim. A local judge has ruled cities and towns are responsible for reimbursing cars owners whose tires and wheels are damaged by car-eating potholes. This happened to one driver last year in this area that lost a tire and an alloy wheel. The entire bill was over $650 to fix, most of it for the alloy wheel.
Why now?
The question boils down to why is it happening now? Why are car- and truck-eating sinkholes developing and why are car-destroying potholes developing.
There are quite a number of answers on the sinkhole issue that range from an underground pool that suddenly finds an outlet to an underground stream system that is normally dry, but has become wet as water drains through the porous limestone above. The water dams, forms a pool and the rest, as they say, is history – sinkhole.
When it empties, usually suddenly, there is only a hole left underground, engineers have indicated in various interviews, the one those destroys-cars.
Others believe there is a fundamental weakness in the underground area leading to holes and sinkholes, while others believe that the pothole theory holds, as there are various types of rock that freeze, expand and refreeze at night, eventually leading to a sinkhole.
As for potholes, Public Works Department spokesmen indicate they send out trucks with “cold patch,” a commonly used attempt to fill potholes with a cold-weather, temporary asphalt-like sealer, that it’s like throwing pebbles at the tide to hold it back.
You can’t hold it back and the cold patch, under the weight or cars, weakens and is washed away or becomes part of the problem as it refreezes at night only making the pothole wider.
Money issue
This could be a costly issue for Massachusetts cities and towns that have already gone through their road-clearing winter budgets, the only one that can run in the red but must be paid back right after the winter, which further shrinks the amount of money left for DPW managers to fix the roads.
Even paid back from the town’s “rain day general fund,” it still puts the squeeze on the DPW to do more with less, leaving little for permanent road fixes.
DPW managers admit they have to stretch their limited funds with permanent fixes so only key problems are fixed. In turn, that can make existing problems worse as the potholes become bumps on a rutted road.

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