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What is a Sinkhole and How Does it Form?

2024-07-05 16:38


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  • Did you know there are some famous sinkholes? One even swallowed up some famous Corvettes in Kentucky. SERVPRO® knows all about cleanup, repair, and construction following water damage and sinkholes.

    Sinkholes are one of nature’s most curious mysteries. Although we know they exist, they sometimes happen without warning. Whether a minor nuisance or a major disaster, a sinkhole can be caused by many factors.  

    Definition of a Sinkhole 

    According to U.S. Geological Survey, a sinkhole, “is a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. Basically, this means that when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface.” Sinkholes are frequently encountered in areas characterized by geologists as "karst terrain," which is marked by porous bedrock (particularly limestone) That is prone to the formation of these sudden collapses in the ground. 

    What Are the Warning Signs You Have a Sinkhole?  

    Warning signs you may have a sinkhole include various structural issues like the emergence of cracks in floors and walls, difficulty in closing windows and doors, and the presence of cloudy or muddy well water. Signs of a sinkhole on your property may involve the exposure of previously buried items like fence posts and foundations, vegetation that withers and dies as the sinkhole draws away essential water, and the appearance of a circular pattern in ground cracks. Be on the lookout for these signs to identify and address any potential sinkhole hazards. 

    What Causes a Sinkhole?  

    Water is the most important factor in forming a sinkhole. Water dissolves minerals within the rock matrix, resulting in the accumulation of residue and the formation of open spaces. This process, known as "weathering," is a fundamental geological phenomenon.  

    What Are the Types of Sinkholes? 

    Not all sinkholes are alike. In fact, there are three different types of sinkholes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Each type occurs at a different level of ground surface, but only one results in catastrophic consequences. The three most common types of sinkholes are: 

    • Dissolution 
    • Cover-subsidence 
    • Cover-collapse 

    Scientists with Earth Systems say cover-collapse is the most dangerous of all sinkholes, because these result in catastrophic consequences. “Cover-collapse sinkholes occur when overburden soils contain a high percentage of clay. They form in the same manner as cover-subsidence sinkholes; however, the cohesive nature of the clay allows a “bridge” to form above the enlarging cavity. Eventually the bridge is breached, resulting in a sudden and often disastrous event.” 

    What are Some Well-Known Sinkholes? 

    Some of the most well-known sinkholes are in the United States, and include

    • The Devil’s Sinkhole in Texas 
    • The Daisetta Sinkhole in Texas 
    • The Winter Park Sinkhole in Florida 
    • The Seffner Park Sinkhole in Florida 

    One of the best-known sinkholes occurred in February 2014 at the world-famous National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. On that day, eight display cars fell into a 20-foot-deep sinkhole that opened up in the dome area of the museum. According to Road and Track, the sinkhole triggered motion-detector alarms around 5:58 a.m. Of the eight cars that were swallowed by the sinkhole, one of the most valuable was the 1 millionth Corvette ever produced.  

    The museum capitalized on this enormous event: today, they have incorporated the sinkhole into the dome area. The next exhibit debuted in 2024, features two Corvettes recovered from the sinkhole, including the 1 millionth Corvette.  

    SERVPRO® Knows the Damage a Sinkhole Can Do 

    Water is the underlying cause of a sinkhole. SERVPRO professionals are specifically trained in water damage cleanup, repair, and restoration. When your home or business property is flooded, or suffers water damage, call SERVPRO. SERVPRO professionals are your trusted partner for fast and reliable cleanup, restoration, and construction services.

    Each of our 2250 locations in the United States and Canada offer 24-hour emergency services, also available on weekends and holidays. SERVPRO locations across the United States and Canada are  independently owned and operated, and staffed with IICRC-certified technicians using advanced technology and equipment.  

    SERVPRO is the #1 choice in fire and water cleanup and restoration*. Call your local SERVPRO today to learn more about our complete line of services including specialty cleaning, document restoration, smoke and pet odor removal, as well as fire damage restoration and mold remediation. Each SERVPRO will do what it takes to help make it “Like it never even happened.”  

    For more information, check out our water damage resources

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