Delano sinkhold repaired; businesses hope traffic back to normal Saturday

Julie Craft deals in the currency of cute, so her sidewalk sign outside her baby boutique in Delano reflected a positive view of the sinkhole just outside her doors.

"When life hands you sinkholes, make mud pies," the colorful sign read. "We're open."

Traffic was expected to return to normal this morning in the historic district, city officials said, after Douglas Avenue just east of Seneca remained closed Friday.

A broken water main Thursday morning created the crater in the street.

As owner of Sweet Cheeks boutique, Craft remained open Friday, as construction workers tried to fill in the hole.

"Construction workers aren't exactly our target market," Craft said with a smile, as two friends with their babies kept her company.

Water was restored Friday morning, but by the noon hour, a bar and a nearby restaurant remained closed.

Wichita said workers were filling the sinkhole and making temporary pavement repairs. Traffic was expected to be restored by this morning.

"All you can do is try to let people know that you're open, despite the construction and the lack of parking," Craft said.

People were parking on the side streets of Walnut and Handley, and it was business as usual across the street at the Bicycle X-Change.

"So far we've been just as busy," said Joseph Knapp, assistant manager.

But Knapp and Craft acknowledged that having the street closed at the height of the Christmas shopping season would hurt.

Knapp said traffic running smoothly today would be to good timing what the water main break was to bad timing for shoppers.

"The Saturday and Monday before Christmas are usually our busiest days of the year," he said. "Those days will be the real test."

Jim Martinson, who organized the Delano Farmers' Market, lives in an apartment near the sinkhole. He took photos of the flooded streets and published them on the neighborhood website, historicdelano.com.

"There's mud everywhere," Martinson said. "Every time you go outside, you've got mud all over your shoes. But now that I've got water back that's the worst of it."

Martinson said he'd seen people driving alleyways trying to negotiate the blocked street.

Crews planned to repair damaged light posts, planters and sidewalks, officials said.

The city said in a news release that crews will make permanent pavement repairs in the spring.