DOVER, Ohio -- A giant sinkhole devoured several acres of land and part of a state highway which had to be closed.

The hole, estimatedby the local fire chief to be the size offourfootball fields,swallowed up part ofState Route 516 in Dover. The roadwill have to be closed for months while engineers determine the bestway to make permanent repairs.

"I've worked for ODOT sixteen years and I've never seen anything ofthis magnitude," said Ohio Department of Transportation District 11Director Lloyd McAdam. "It's very unusual that something like this wouldhappen."

McAdam told WKYCa pond near the roadcollapsed andcreated thesinkhole. The pond and the land which sank belong to the Newton AsphaltCompany, which had been dredging for sand as much as 50 feet deep.

"It appears to me that dredging took away the bottom of the slope,"McAdam theorized, "and that probably eroded away and started cascadingdown, and just started filling the hole and filling the hole."

Newton employees immediately made their way to State Route 516 tostop traffic, McAdam said, and notified authorities of what hadhappened.

Hank Rutkowski, a mechanical engineer who works only a few hundredyards from the sinkhole, says a man who works in the same building wasjust about to drive where the sinkhole was rapidly forming.

"There was a car coming down this road right about at the end when itwas still driveable," Rutkowski said. "Mike started waving his arms tostop traffic.That person might have been lucky."

Engineers will continue inspecting thesinkhole and may eventuallyconsider building a bridge over the affected area.ODOT'sMcAdampredicted it would be until 2013 that permanent repairs would bemade.

"It's going to be a while before the road is open because this is asignificant fix, and we're entering winter season where not a whole lotof construction can take place."

Trafficwas being detoured on State Route 39 and State Route 93, andlocal detours are also in place.Motoristswere beingurged to planahead to avoid signficant delays over the next several months.