Two gaping holes in the West Texas desert have long been a concern for local authorities, and that concern only continues to grow as the two holes expand and threaten to converge into one, a collapse that could be catastrophic.
Decades of drilling for oil and gas in this part of Winkler County, especially during the peak years between 1926 and 1964, have resulted in an extremely unstable landscape. Freshwater has found its way deep underground, dissolving interbedded salt layers and in turn creating all kinds of issues, including the two infamous Wink Sinks.
Wink Sink 1 formed on June 3, 1980. At the time of its collapse, it measured 360 feet across and 112 feet deep. Wink Sink 2 was formed on May 21, 2002, about one mile south of Wink Sink 1. It has expanded from its original surface width of 450 feet and now stretches between 607 to 820 feet across.
In the last 10 years, various studies, including research using radar images taken by an orbiting satellite, have made it all too clear that the sinkholes are still expanding, and the ground around them subsiding. Not only could the two existing sinkholes converge into one, new sinkholes could also form.
For now, at least, the residents of the nearby towns of Wink (population 940) and Kermit (population 6,000) seem to be taking the situation in stoic fashion, with no great concern for their immediate futures. Wink Sink 2 is the closest to either town, about a mile northeast of the edge of Wink. But local lawman Sheriff George Keely isn’t too worried. Talking to The Texas Tribune in 2016, Keely said, “We don’t lose sleep over it. The catastrophic event I’m most concerned about is if Hillary Clinton becomes president.”
Nonetheless, a collapse could cause plenty of problems even if there is no direct threat to the two towns. The entire area around the two sinkholes is heavily populated with oil and gas production equipment and installations, as well as hazardous liquid pipelines. In other words, a collapse could cause one hell of a mess. Geophysicists continue to monitor the situation.