Motorists are accustomed to encountering rough pavement from time to time, but a situation that surfaced in Mount Airy Saturday could be described as the mother of all potholes.
It involved a large sinkhole that formed at the intersection of East Independence Boulevard and North Renfro Street, adjacent to the McDonald’s/Ollie’s Bargain Outlet shopping center and the dental office of Dr. Melissa Smith.
A section of pavement at the southeastern corner of that intersection apparently began to cave at some point in the early afternoon.
Mark Williams, Surry County maintenance engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation who was at the site Saturday, said he was notified of the problem at about 1:30 p.m. by the Mount Airy Police Department.
DOT personnel were then deployed to the scene, which is part of the state highway system rather than the city system as is the case with some streets in Mount Airy.
This was accompanied by the closure of the right lanes of both the northbound section of Renfro Street and the eastbound portion of Independence Boulevard at the corner, to prevent any vehicles from going into the hole and protect workers while they made repairs.
Williams and at least three other DOT employees were still on the scene at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and he was unable to say how long the task might take.
The maintenance engineer at that point also was unsure about what had caused the roadway to collapse.
Heavy equipment had been brought in to excavate the site and help pinpoint the problem, which resulted in a hole several feet deep that DOT personnel were standing in during the operation.
A large white pipe was visible in that space, but it was not immediately known if the sinkhole was related to any problem with the pipe.
Traffic at the affected location has been heavier than normal in recent days due to the closure of East Pine Street from Riverside Drive to North Main Street. This has been accompanied by a detour that has involved vehicles being rerouted onto Independence Boulevard.