Massive sinkhole among flood damage city of Billings is working to fix
By Charlie Klepps,2023-06-06
BILLINGS - Last weekend's flooding left damage all over the city of Billings, but the most apparent is the massive sinkhole on Gabel Road near Shipton's Big R.
The waters washed away a large chunk of the road, forcing Gabel Road to close in both directions for about a four-block stretch.
It was a historic amount of rainfall and a crazy weekend for many, but one Shipton's Big R store manager Garth Webster won't soon forget.
"I had actually just got off, but I had a couple of my assistants sending me pictures and going, 'Hey, we've got some road falling off,'" Webster said Tuesday afternoon. "I just really couldn't believe it, to be honest."
The sinkhole is directly in front of Shipton's Big R store and forced one of the entrances into the parking lot to be shut down. While he agreed the closure was necessary, Shipton's Operations Manager Ed Chapman said that it could have an effect on future business.
"I think this definitely, realistically could impact the number of people that hit our parking lot, but so far it hasn't had a huge impact on us," Chapman said.
Webster believes that the main reason business hasn't slowed yet is that many of the products in the store fit the needs that customers dealing with their own flood damages might have.
"The flood actually brought a lot of customers in looking for water pumps and that sort of stuff," Webster said. "It's definitely a little inconvenient that they can't get into the lot from one direction, but overall, we're still having people come and trying to make sure that they're getting the best help they can."
Gabel Road isn't the only area dealing with the aftermath of the weekend storm. Billings Director of Public Works Debi Mehling said that many new projects have been created, and that lots of construction has been delayed.
"It's a lot of cleaning, a lot of jetting our lines, and a lot of erosion control," Mehling said. "But we really only have a few big projects that will come out of this storm."
Mehling estimated that more than 100 calls were made to the city with flooding problems. Other problem areas included the intersection of Broadwater Avenue and 32nd Street West and some rock slides that happened near the Rims. Zimmerman Trail was one of the first roads to close when the storm first hit.
For the most part, Mehling said the city held up well, considering the amount of rainfall.
"If someone told me that we were going to get anywhere between four and six inches of rain in a weekend, I would've thought that we'd have more damage than we actually have," Mehling said.
And while there are a few projects that need to be done, Mehling said fixing Gabel Road is at the top of the list.
"Anytime we have businesses near construction sites, whether planned or unplanned, we try really hard to minimize that impact because construction is hard on business," Mehling said.
A new road would be music to Chapman's ears, but for now they're doing the best they can at Shipton's to help their customers deal with their own damages.
"We just want to help everyone else that was impacted to a greater degree to get back on their feet and supply them with the products they need to get that done," Chapman said.