Corvette Sinkhole in a Karst State

Kentucky, USA is the ranked as the 7th most dangerous state for sinkholes in the country, and literily, there are thousands of sinkholes across the state. Luckily, most of them have been reported as very small, but every now and again you get a really big one that can swallow eight Corvettes in just minutes!

Geologically speaking, the frequency of these sinkhole occurrences is because “Kentucky is one of the most famous karst areas in the world.” Karst literally means “rocky ground,” which you may sound pretty innocuous. However, consider that most of the bedrock in the state is made of water-soluble limestone.

Corvette Assembly Plant and Corvette National Museum

It doesn’t take much to erode limestone. Ask any geologist; the process is pretty much how all caves are formed (and Kentucky has some of the largest). The problem is, in the Bluegrass State, there is precious little of anything else in the bedrock. And, in the middle of karst hot zone, and no more than a quarter of a mile away from each other, sits the Chevrolet Corvette Assembly Plant that has been manufacturing Corvette since 1981. Prior to this, The first Corvettes were originally produced in Flint, Michigan in 1953. Production was then moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1954 and remained there until the new Corvette Assembly Plant was completed in 1981 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. All Corvettes continue to be produced at the Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green and there is no plans to move this facility out of the state of Kentucky.

The National Corvette Museum officially opened its doors for business in September, 1994 as it took some ten years to raise interest, capital and decide where to locate this museum. The likely choice was to locate the Corvette Museum along with the Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green. The National Corvette Museum displays over eighty Corvettes such as one-of-a-kind prototypes, mint condition classics, and modern-day wonders of engineering in different periodic settings. You also can pick a souvenir from the Corvette Store, eat a Chevy Burger in the Corvette Cafe and take a lap or two at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park.

Bowling Green sits almost squarely inside of Warren County and represents Kentucky’s third largest city. The good news is that approximately 10 percent of the county is built on top of moderate karst instead of major karst. The bad news is that, according to Josh Moore, the county’s Public Information Officer, is on the record as having said, ”Warren County has no regulations for building on karst and instead take precautions [only] for large commercial businesses.”

Bowling Green, Classic Cars, and Multi-Gravity Tests

It clearly seemed as though Warren County officials were happy to keep their heads in the sand (karst) for the time being, until, on February 12, 2014, a giant Corvette sinkhole opened under the floor of National Corvette Museum at around 5:44 am in the Skydome area. The geological event then caused the floor to collapse, and swallow up eight classic Corvettes by the time it was done. Twenty classic cars looked on silently above the fault line, miraculously untouched, and were immediately hauled away to safety.

In the coming days, the area would be roped off and multiple multi-gravity tests would be done to ensure that another Corvette sinkhole wasn’t present or in the making, and soon reconstruction work resumed. In the first week of March, nearly a month after the sinkhole first opened up, 5 of the 8 Corvettes were reportedly recovered by the museum. Shortly after that, steel rods were stuck through the limestone (apparently that is how they handle soft rocks in Kentucky that might someday just melt away), and cement was poured.

The Show-Business of Corvette Recovery

But a funny thing happened during this whole cataclysmic process that nobody quite expected. According to the museum itself, “about two days after the sinkhole happened,” after the initial shock wore off and the dust settled, the museum realized the true value of the entire event might hold a silver lining.

Fire officials first on the scene had estimated that the size of the sinkhole was about 40-ft wide and 30-ft deep, making it one of the largest to every form in the state. That gave a savvy Marketing Director an idea, as she recognized that throngs of people had been gathering outside for days. The upshot was that the Museum choose to remain open for almost the entire time of assessment and reconstruction period.

And the move paid off. Treating the Corvette museum sinkhole like an exhibit instead of eyesore meant that 100,000 more visitors attended the museum in 2014 than in the previous year (150,000). And, even 2015 saw a similar jump in attendance.

1993 Chevrolet Corvette

Never Crush them, Restore them with Love, Dreamers!

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