A large red crane towered over the former crater on North Second Street this morning, a testimony to the size of the problem the city is having with the sandy soil in the area.
The soil content and the meandering bank of the Kansas River have caused road and bridge problems for that area of North Lawrence in the past 90 years, according to a city historian.
And a Kansas University geologist says it's possible future problems could occur because of the sandy soil and underground drainage into the river.
Meanwhile, it will take about another two weeks to open up North Second Street to four lanes of traffic, said George Williams, city public works director. Williams said the hole, which at one time had been 40 feet long by 30 feet wide by 20 feet deep, was filled in with sand Friday to keep it from growing.
A contractor was to begin driving sheet piling into the hole today, Williams said. The sheet pilings will serve as walls so workers can fix a broken storm sewer pipe that had been washing away the soil around it, Williams said.
A Journal-World photograph taken in North Lawrence after the 1951 Kansas River flood showed that a similar hole had developed on North Second Street, about 200 feet north of the hole now at North Second and Locust.
Told about the photo, Williams said it didn't surprise him, although the holes had different causes.
"In '51 it washed out," Williams said. "This was a break in the pipe that caused the sand to be eroded."
Steve Jansen, director of the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum and the city's unofficial historian, said the soil composition in that area has given the city headaches for decades.
Jansen said he has read accounts of the time the river flooded in 1903 and washed a house downstream that carved out the river's north bank, making the river 60 to 70 feet wider.
He said that before the levee was constructed after the 1951 flood, there were city blocks in North Lawrence that are now in the river bed.
Frank Wilson, senior geologist and senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey, said the sandy soil and the meandering bank of the river makes it "pretty tricky," to speculate if the problem will occur again. But it is possible, he said.