This just happened today 3 minutes from my house at the local ford dealership...
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Two women in a Jeep Grand Cherokee approached a puddle in the middle of 19th Street, just west of Oak, at about 1:25 p.m. Thursday.
Thinking that was strange after a couple of months without rain in Bakersfield (since Sept. 2 to be exact), the women decided to approach slowly.
As the front wheels of the 2000 sport utility vehicle dipped into the puddle, they began to sink.
The driver, Rosalinda Taylor, 41, of Arvin, and her passenger, Irene Valos, 55, of Bakersfield, decided to get out of the Jeep and run down the road, Bakersfield police Detective Mary DeGeare related.
Seconds later, the ground split open and their vehicle sunk about 12 feet, coming to rest on its side in a flow of muddy water.
A jagged 65-yard-long gash then opened up, sucking in asphalt, concrete and two expensive pickup trucks on the lot of Jim Burke Ford.
Ann Savage, a credit department employee at the dealership, was driving a 1996 Ford Thunderbird near the sinkhole.
She had the terrifying experience of being gobbled up with her car at the north end of the 20-foot-wide hole in the dealership's parking lot.
She crawled out through her window and was helped out of the hole by Bakersfield firefighters, Battalion Chief Larry Toler said.
Savage was not hurt, but she was taken to a doctor as a precaution, said Maria Payne, the dealership's human resources director.
The other two women also were unhurt, but they were too shaken just moments after seeing their car disappear to talk to a reporter.
A 12-foot-wide corrugated steel canal pipe underground corroded at the top, causing the ground to collapse in it, Bakersfield Public Works Director Raul Rojas said.
The city-maintained pipe goes from a concrete canal on the east side of Oak Street to an earth-sided canal about 100 yards south of 19th Street.
Concrete beneath Oak Street protects that road from collapsing, but the rest of the route is topped by dirt, asphalt parking lots and 19th Street, and some concrete sidewalks.
The asphalt opened up like an earthquake fault.
Oak Street between 19th and 21st streets was closed, as was 19th Street between Oak Street and Westwind Drive. Oak will remain closed until late this afternoon.
"I've been here 26 years," Toler said. "I've never seen anything like it."
That's pretty much what all the witnesses said. Jim Burke employees, some near tears, worried about Savage, while others looked at two brand-new trucks that suddenly became a problem for an insurance company.
The pickups, a Ford F-350 valued at $55,000 and an F-250 valued at $40,000, didn't look all that badly damaged as one dipped in grille first while the other, bed first.
A few hours later, both were lifted out with a crane and driven away to the cheers of the crowd.
Jim Burke came out in a golf cart to the lot, which he said he bought 27 years ago from the former Kern County Land Company.
"We had an employee in one of the cars," Burke said as a large crowd of emergency crews, engineers and onlookers gathered around his sales lot. "That was our first concern."
One of his salesmen, Rob Boyd Jr., was an eyewitness at the beginning.
He said he was walking across 19th Street just west of where the Jeep Grand Cherokee had approached the puddle.
"It looked like a flat tire," Boyd said. "They jumped out and everything just started to fall in. The ladies were screaming."
He said he called 911 on his cell phone as the sinkhole expanded to the parking lot.
Another employee, Angela Rodriguez, 26, sipped on a drink from Burger King as she surveyed what happened.
"I was just on that road," she said. "I went and got some lunch and when I came back there was all this. Oh, my gosh, I can't believe it."
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