Swallowed by a Sinkhole!

By now you may have heard all the hoopla surrounding the sinkholes in Seffner, Florida.  Particularly regarding the catastrophic event that happened about a month ago, where a man was asleep in his bed when the ground opened up and swallowed him alive…literally.  Well, since that tragic incident, at least 3 additional sinkholes have been reported in that very same town, although the latest sinkholes have not resulted in injury.  For photos and more details about the events in Seffner, Florida, see my article here.

What causes sinkholes? 

Many sinkholes form when acidic rainwater dissolves limestone or similar rock beneath the soil.  Once the stone or rock dissolves it leaves a large space or void that collapses when it’s no longer able to support the weight of whatever is above it.  These type of sinkholes are called “cover collapse sinkholes,” which are most likely the type that happen in Florida.  The end result is when the ground below suddenly caves in, swallowing all that is directly on top of it.

Where do they occur? 

Sinkholes happen in many different parts of the world.  In the US, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas are prone to see sinkholes.  However, many other states have also experienced this phenomenon in recent years, as well as other countries outside of the US such as China, New Zealand, and Guatemala.

Are they dangerous?

Sinkholes can be very dangerous.  However, injuries and deaths are not very common, but do sometimes occur.  In 2012 a Utah family’s car fell in a sinkhole killing a 15-year old female passenger.  Not all sinkholes collapse due to the weight of homes or other structures.  Some sinkholes are simply found in open fields.  Regardless, after the deadly occurrence in Florida, it is enough to give me nightmares.

Photo Credit: Sinkhole_CA_firetruck_AP
Photo Credit: Sinkhole_CA_firetruck_AP
Photo Credit:Sinkhole_TX_JamesNielsen_HoustonChronicle_AP
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Photo Credit:Sinkhole_Guatemala_Luis_Echeverria_GuatemalasPresidency_AP
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