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Sinkhole swallows up Butte backyard

Posted at 9:21 AM, Nov 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 12:16:47-05

BUTTE – Janice Lucon and her husband Peter were enjoying a quiet spring day when the bottom suddenly fell out.

“We’re we sitting in our kitchen and heard kurrrrr whomp! And gingerly looked out the door and there’s no yard anymore,” said Lucon.

A 30-foot sinkhole swallowed the backyard to their home in the 400 block of West Broadway.

“Shocking, of course, but you always hear about people having holes show up in Butte and you just never think that it will happen in your own yard until it does,” said Lucon.

The hole came from an old silver mine that was abandoned in the 1890s. It was a challenge for engineers, who spent the rest of this year isolating and filling the sinkhole because it came from a very old mine.

“Because there’s usually not very good records of what happened, you know when they [were] here there was nobody around here except sagebrush and jackrabbits,” said Marty Bennett, an engineer at Pioneer Technical Services.

The state’s Abandoned Mine Lands program has spent $100,000 to plug the sinkhole and restore the yard, which is a big job.

“We put 48 yards of concrete in, brought it up, now we brought in structural fill over the top of that and then we’ll put this structural cap over it with the idea that if the plug settles a little bit with the cap you’ll never know it,” said Bennett.

When that sinkhole suddenly appeared in their yard earlier this year, the only thing of value they lost was a shovel. Now, that shovel is still lost somewhere down there in that deep, dark hole, but it makes the Lucons thankful that no one was hurt in that very dangerous situation.

“Kids could have fallen into it, my husband and I could have fallen into it, there’s lots of opportunities for the hole to give away suddenly and somebody’d be at the bottom of a mine shaft,” she said.

However, she and her husband and three young children feel safe staying in their Butte home.

“I’ve seen them work on the hole for the whole summer and off and on through the fall and I might have the most solid yard in all of Uptown when this is done,” said Lucon.

 -John Emeigh reporting for MTN News