The sinkhole: A sneaky disaster

Casey Morgan
August 23, 2013
sinkholes happen all the time

There are a lot of different types of disaster, and it seems everybody that lives anywhere is at risk of everything from falling boulders to flaming tornadoes or just more common disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. One natural phenomenon that seems to be causing more and more damage is the dastardly sinkhole.

Recently, CNN reported that a resort near Disney World in Florida had been swallowed by a sinkhole, forcing guests from their rooms as the building completely collapsed.

Sinkholes can eat anything above them, and they can happen at any time, and if you’re not prepared, you might be tossing your company’s data down the… er… hole.

What causes one of these dastardly chasms to occur?

According to a piece on CNN, sinkholes are generally caused by acidic rainwater, which dissolves limestone or similar rock underground. The void left by the rock eventually collapses when it can no longer support the weight above it. This can happen in the middle of nowhere, or even right beneath a home or business, and it happens pretty frequently.

Luckily, not everywhere is at risk of sinkholes because they tend to occur in places built on beds of limestone, particularly areas of Florida (there’s an area called “sinkhole alley”), Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. There are situations in which these sinkholes happen suddenly, completely destroying whatever rests on the ground above, and others where the ground simply sags and the water and erosion cause small ponds or marshes to appear.

CNN reported that sinkholes are very common in Florida in particular. The Committee on Banking and Insurance reported that insurance companies had received over 24,000 claims for sinkhole damage in Florida alone between 2006 and 2010, which averages to about 17 claims a day. That’s just a single state. Not only that but insurance claims submitted during that same time frame totaled $1.4 billion. That’s an awful lot of damage caused by such an odd phenomenon.

How do you know if you’re at risk?

If you’re in any of the areas mentioned above, you might be at risk. Areas built on limestone deposits are at risk of sinkholes since this type of stone is easily corroded by groundwater. If you live in any of those areas and there are sinkholes in your neighborhood or you have a settling yard, you could be at risk for a sinkhole. If your yard is settling, the Florida Geological Survey suggests that you have your property tested by a licensed engineer or geologist to find out for sure.

If there’s a sinkhole in your neighborhood, you should note that although most sinkholes are isolated events, they do occasionally occur in sets. Check out your property for any soft or sinking areas just in case, but unless the sinkhole is large enough to extend on your property, you probably shouldn’t worry too much.

Of course, it’s easy enough to notice if you’ve got soft or sinking areas in your yard, but what about at your place of business? It’s probably been pounded into a parking lot of asphalt and concrete, which means you might not notice there’s an impending issue. There might not be many warning signs other than a slowly, steadily sinking parking lot, though you with some research you might at least by able to find out what type of material your building is built on, which might give you some idea of what can happen. In any case, it’s best if you can plan for this type of thing ahead of time.

Odd disasters don’t stop at sinkholes. There are a plethora of other disasters you probably never thought about.

Photo Credit: horslips5 via Compfight cc