The state of Florida is well known for many things. Bright sunshine, devastating hurricanes, terrifying alligators and… sinkholes!
Yes, Florida has had more sinkholes than any other state in the USA. For locals, the issue that the earth could, at any given moment, gobble them whole is a very real fear.
These terrifying ground chasms have been swelling and increasing over the past few years, and the question on many people’s lips is – why are there so many sinkholes in Florida?
We’re here to spill the beans on this dramatic high-profile natural phenomenon. Here’s the truth as to why there are so many sinkholes in Florida.
Sinkhole Stories in Florida
There have been many incidences of Florida sinkholes, but let’s shine the light on some of the most high-profile cases.
Usually, sinkholes end up being a headache for property owners and a shock for locals at worst. But unfortunately, tragedy does strike and there have been six recorded deaths from sinkholes occurring in Florida.
The most shocking story took place in 2013 when Jeffrey Bush was swallowed whole when a sinkhole sucked him 20 feet underground. Bush was sleeping soundly in his bedroom at the time, and sadly his body was never recovered from the deep, dark depths of the sinkhole.
And in 2012, a sinkhole gulped down the back of a home at Shoal Drive in Hudson. A photo was taken to show the shocking damage. At the time the image was taken, the sinkhole was reportedly 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
Why Are There Sinkholes in Florida?
So, why are there so many sinkholes in Florida? What causes them? It’s time to learn interesting facts about sinkholes.
Firstly, Florida is a state built on a foundation of carbonate, primarily formulated by limestone.
Limestone rock dissolves easily in rainwater. That rainwater then becomes acidic as it soaks into the soil. The resulting terrain is called karst and it’s packed full of cavities.
When a cavity grows too large to support its top, it suddenly collapses. The packed sand and clay break down, leaving a gaping cavernous hole at the surface. Scary, huh?
That’s not the half of it either. The main trigger for sinkholes relates to water. Too much of it or too little of it can contribute to a sinkhole occurring.
Florida usually has perfectly moist soil which offers a stabilizing effect on karst and prevents it from collapsing. However, during a drought, cavities that were usually sustained by groundwater become empty and unstable. As a result, a sinkhole can occur.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, during an intense rainstorm, the billowing weight of pooled water can strain and affect the earth. The sudden extra groundwater can then wash out and overwhelm cavities, resulting in a sinkhole.
At the beginning of 2017, Central Florida was suffering from an unfortunate drought. To make matters worse, the heavy rainfall of Hurricane Irma devastated in September that year.
These two natural disasters, one leading the other, offered optimal conditions for a sinkhole pandemic.
Ready for more information about sinkholes in Florida? Well, it turns out, us humans we don’t help the situation either.
Man-made development contributes heavily to the increase in sinkholes in Florida. Did you know that the risk of sinkholes is 11 times greater in developed areas than undeveloped ones?
Equipment that maneuvers across the earth end up scrubbing away protective layers of soil contributes to the formation of sinkholes. Imagine the effects of parking lots and paved roads that are constantly used, and the weight of newly-constructed buildings weighing down on weak spots on the earth.
Think of all the buried infrastructure that can lead to leaking underground pipes, and the pumping of groundwater disrupting the karst.
Sinkhole Signs to Watch out For
Sinkholes don’t just occur in Florida though, and wherever you live there are some signs you can look out for that may indicate an impending sinkhole.
If your yard seems to be settling, there may be a possibility of a sinkhole occurring. However, it’s important to note that other issues can cause various holes or depressions that materialize on the ground surface.
If you’re worried, the best idea is to have it checked out by a licensed engineer and a professional geologist or geology firm. Better to be safe than sorry though, right?
If a sinkhole appeared in your neighborhood, again, you should have an inspection of your home for any worrying sinking or soft areas that could result in a sinkhole. However, while sinkholes in Florida do sometimes appear in sets, usually they’re isolated situations. Unless the sinkhole in question is rather big and extends to your property, there shouldn’t be a reason for too much concern.
In Florida, there are also areas where there’s a higher risk of sinkholes, too. Typically, areas in Florida where limestone is close to the surface, or areas featuring deeper limestone featuring a conductive structure of water table elevation have increased the likelihood of a sinkhole occurring.
Reporting Sinkholes in Florida
Sinkholes in Florida happen, so it’s important to know what to do if it happens near you.
If a sinkhole opens in your neighborhood, immediately call local law enforcement to report the hazard. Then, speak to your city or country road department for immediate repair work. In the meantime, the sinkhole should be cordoned off and marked to protect pedestrians and car traffic.
If you suspect a sinkhole is forming near your home, we’re here to help. Notify our specialist consultants so that you can be prepared to file an insurance claim. Learn more about our sinkhole services here.