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Hurricane Irene's Middletown Sinkholes

The storm-related closures of the two roads continue indefinitely due to large-scale sinkhole problems.

Hurricane Irene's blows in the form of sinkholes on both Hubbard Avenue and Holland Road, in Middletown, continue to trouble county and township officials.

Detours have indefinitely been placed at both sites according to William Heine, Monmouth County's spokesman.

The sinkhole on Hubbard Avenue in the River Plaza section took out a portion of the county road's southbound lane near the Shadow Lake dam sometime during the storm. County work crews have since placed concrete and mesh barriers as well as chain link fences in the middle of Hubbard Avenue to prevent traffic from entering the impacted area.

The road is closed just south of the River Plaza Elementary School and Alexander Drive. Coming from the south, motorists are detoured at Park Place.

Since the sinkhole was discovered Sunday morning, nearby residents have come down to gawk at the sight and listen to the water rushing into the gap from the dam that once held back Shadow Lake.

Standing near the north end of the closure, Township Committeeman Kevin Settembrino predicted that Hubbard Avenue will be offline for some time.

"This is not just a patch job," said Settembrino, who lives nearby. "We now have our own cul-de-sac."

Hubbard Avenue, often used by motorists, wanting to avoid Route 35 traffic and the Cooper's Bridge to Red Bank, is strangely quiet now, Settembrino noted.

"We can hear the crickets at night," he said.

Hubbard Avenue, along with Ravine Drive near Lake Lefferts, in Matawan, are the county's two most serious sinkhole problems according to Heine.

Heine referred further questions about Hubbard Avenue's repairs to County Engineer Joe Ettore, who could not be reached at press time.

Engineers are out inspecting the county's numerous bridges "12-hours a day" according to Freeholder John Curley, liaison to the Department of Public Works and Engineering.

"In addition, many other divisions within the department have been reassigned to assist the engineers with their inspections," Curley said
"They are working hard to minimize the impact this storm has on residents.” 

The Holland Road bridge over Mahoras Creek is county-owned even though the roadway itself is overseen by Middletown Township, Heine said. A detour around the damaged bridge and sinkhole continues.

Initially a downed tree had fallen over the sinkhole that appeared to be about eight feet deep according to James Vannest, the township's assistant administrator.

Before the township closed Holland Road, the fallen tree covered a gas main under the roadway surface and actually acted as protective buffer between vehicles and the sinkhole, Vannest said.

The tree might have actually prevented a vehicle from plunging into the sinkhole and striking the gas main, he pointed out.

"It's an amazing coincidence that the tree fell right where people needed to go around it," Vannest said.

The detour is on a stretch of Holland Road between Red Hill Road and Laurel Avenue.

Neither Heine or Vannest could predict when repairs to the Holland Road bridge might begin. That site is just one of seven other detours the county has placed since the storm raged over the weekend.

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