Important Facts about Sinkholes

Sinkholes, like other natural hazards, can lead to a significant amount of devastation. Aside from damage to properties and infrastructures, sinkholes can lead to a lot of injuries and fatalities. As such, it’s important to learn important facts about how such accidents happen and how we can be prepared when it happens.

A sinkhole is basically a depression in the ground that is formed when the top surface collapses. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, sinkholes are a usual occurrence in areas called karst terrains. These are landscapes where the rocks beneath the earth’s surface are soluble and can be dissolved by the naturally occurring groundwater that circulates around it. Eventually, with enough water, soluble rocks such as limestone and gypsum will lose structural integrity, causing the ground—along with the structures built on top of it—to collapse.

In the U.S., karst terrains are common in Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas. Certain areas in these states are particularly susceptible to sinkholes, especially during cases of intense rainstorms following dry spells or droughts. These, however, aren’t the only places where sinkholes can occur. In fact, sinkholes can also occur due to human intervention.

The same basic principle happens when the ground collapses into a human-induced sinkhole. These types of sinkholes are caused by poor practices and planning in water-pumping and construction. The water circulating around the ground and concrete will eventually make the surface unstable and collapse.

Natural hazards can be hard to predict, but individuals can keep an eye out on areas where sinkholes might possibly be forming. A sinkhole could be observed if there are structural cracks in walls and floors of a building. Depressions in the ground could also make it difficult to close doors and windows properly. Foundations, fence posts, and trees could also be seen becoming more and more exposed as the ground sinks further into itself. Any cracking in the ground with a noticeable circular pattern is another indication of a sinkhole.

Despite these indications, some sinkholes can still be hard to observe. As such, it might be hard to predict if your home or surrounding property is in any danger. The only way such accidents can be prevented is through careful observance of proper construction regulations. Contractors building homes should be wary of such risks and look up natural disclosure reports in the area.

For example, in California, there have been numerous reports of sinkholes in the past few years. Just last year, The Weather Channel reported several incidents of sinkholes in the state following several days of steady rainfall. Contractors should then check for a California natural hazard disclosure report that could help show significant patterns in sinkholes and other similar catastrophes.

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