Sinkhole temporarily closes Oakland Zoo until at least Jan. 17

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, January 2, 2023
Oakland Zoo temporarily closes due to sinkhole until at least Jan. 17
A sinkhole has caused the temporary closure of Oakland Zoo, with a reopening date of no earlier than Jan. 17.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The weekend rain caused thousands of dollars worth of damage at the Oakland Zoo, forcing a temporary closure.

Video recorded on Saturday shows the area near the entrance of the zoo, flooded in water. By Sunday the rain had stopped, but crews had already started work to fix a culvert underneath that entrance road.

"The incredible velocity and volume of the water that was coming down just wreaked havoc across the zoo. Drainage systems weren't able to keep up, mud was coming off the hillside, across our pathways and our parking lot," said Nik Dehejia who is the CEO of the Oakland Zoo.

And worst of all, a sinkhole formed under the vehicle entrance to the Oakland Zoo during the rain. Now the facility will be closed for at least two weeks because of that.

MORE: Epic cleanup begins after New Year's Eve flooding submerges SF businesses

The Bay Area is cleaning up and drying out after the New Year's Eve storm dumped near-historic amounts of rain.

"I was shocked when I heard the news when we had a sinkhole," said Chris Pagan who drives a school bus and goes to the Oakland Zoo once a week.

"It's a bright spot for me and I can't imagine not going every week now, it's become such a routine for me. Love the place! said Pagan.

"It's been probably 50 years since we've seen something of this magnitude," said Dehejia.

Those from the zoo say no animals or people were hurt or injured by the sinkhole.

MORE: Here's a look at the severe flooding that has drenched Bay Area roadways, damaged property

The atmospheric river that has hit the Bay Area is causing widespread problems---most notably flooding.

Because of the damage, the Zoo's Glowfari lantern festival is also closed. Refunds will be given but still a shame to those like Caitlin Jackson who has already attended the event twice this year.

"People don't think about how just some rain, we need it so desperately in the state, and yet the wrong time and the wrong volume can really cause problems for folks," said Jackson.

As to when the Zoo will open back up...

"The short answer is I don't know. We're hoping in the next few weeks. We're going to do the best we can. We got the best contractors available to get it fixed and we're going to do our best to open it up as soon as possible," Dehejia said.

"I'll be there the first day they reopen. Can't wait to get back," Pagan said.

MORE: Here's a look at the severe flooding that has drenched Bay Area roadways, damaged property

The Oakland Zoo posted this statement on their Facebook page:

Oakland Zoo is closed and will be unable to reopen until January 17th, or possibly later, due to a major sinkhole caused by a collapsed culvert located under the vehicle entrance to the Zoo at Golf Links Road. The culvert, overburdened by the historic and unprecedented amount of rainfall throughout the region over the past few days, connects Arroyo Viejo Creek under the entry road to the Zoo. The sinkhole is approximately 10 feet wide and approximately 10 feet deep and is impassable to vehicles, prohibiting guests from entering the Zoo.

Engineers called to the site yesterday say that with additional rain expected in the next several days, the sinkhole could worsen during the time. Zoo officials are working with a local company specializing in engineering, design, and construction to repair the sinkhole as soon as possible, and were advised it may take an estimated 2 weeks or more for materials to arrive and the work to be completed.

In other areas of the Zoo yesterday, the volume and velocity of the water flowing across the Zoo grounds caused incredible soil erosion, eucalyptus trees to fall, flooding in various buildings, and overwhelmed drainage systems. Electricity went out at times and our internet and ticketing systems were intermittently working.

All animals and staff are fine and remained safe during the extreme weather. While closed, Zoo staff will continue to be onsite to take care of the animals, provide maintenance needs, and conduct clean-ups from damage caused by the rain.

If you had reservations, any time between today and January 17th, to visit the Zoo or attend Glowfari, you will receive an email about receiving a refund.

We are looking into possibility of extending Glowfari and will announce soon.

We thank you for your patience and hope to see you all very soon at the Zoo.

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