Sinkholes common, but usually not deadly - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sinkholes common, but usually not deadly

Jeremy Bush, right, is consoled by an unidentified woman Sunday, March 3, 2013, as he sits outside a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom, swallowing his brother, Jeffrey Bush, in Seffner, FL. (Source: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Jeremy Bush, right, is consoled by an unidentified woman Sunday, March 3, 2013, as he sits outside a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom, swallowing his brother, Jeffrey Bush, in Seffner, FL. (Source: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(RNN) - The bizarre, heartbreaking story of Florida man who died in March 2013 after a sinkhole opened up beneath his bed and swallowed him makes for a frightening narrative.

But such events are so uncommon, most Americans shouldn't worry about it happening to them.

"Deaths due to sinkholes are extremely rare and to my knowledge, there are only three that have occurred in Florida dating to the 1960s," said Dr. Jon Arthur, state geologist with the Florida Geological Survey.

That total includes the recent death of Jeff Bush, who died after a sinkhole formed beneath his Tampa-area home. Rescuers used specialized equipment, but still were not able to locate his body. The sinkhole that took his life is now his final resting place. Crews demolished his home and filled in the hole with gravel in an attempt to stabilize it.

The US Geological Survey says states where the most damage from sinkholes usually happens are Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

In states where sinkholes are common, tests and surveys are available that can determine if one is likely to develop on a home site. However, Arthur says the tests are so expensive, most homeowners and builders typically forego them.

But there are some common-sense practices people can employ to protect themselves.

"Once you're in the home, you want to be observant of your home," he said.

"Not every crack in your home means a sinkhole. There are a lot of reasons the land can subside and you can have cracks in your wall and foundation. If these cracks grow and continue to grow - doors and windows that used to open easily are now more difficult - you have something going on. It could be related to a sinkhole or just compaction of sediment." 

Sinkholes form when ground water circulates through and dissolves certain types of soft rock, usually limestone, salt, gypsum, anhydrite and dolomite. 

As the rocks dissolve, caverns form and eventually, there is not enough strength to support the land above, triggering a sinkhole.

A sudden collapse can vary in size from a few feet to hundreds of acres and can range from 1- to 100-feet deep.

"Roads, buildings, landfills, storm water ponds, most of them occur out and about in fields and forests," Arthur said.

Human activity can also trigger sinkholes, where groundwater pumping, new construction and development and groundwater manipulation occur.

In 2011, a Florida man died while drilling a well after a sinkhole opened up beneath him and his truck.

As for sinkholes like the one that took the life of Bush?

"It's just rare," Arthur said.

Copyright 2015 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • NEWSMore>>

  • Hall of Fame billiards player Mike Massey using pool to spread the word of God

    Hall of Fame billiards player Mike Massey using pool to spread the word of God

    Wednesday, July 26 2017 12:14 AM EDT2017-07-26 04:14:13 GMT

    Mike Massey says he's been on a mission since he had a spiritual experience.  He's using pool and the bible to spread the word through his Gospel Trick Shot Ministry.  

    More >>

    Mike Massey says he's been on a mission since he had a spiritual experience.  He's using pool and the bible to spread the word through his Gospel Trick Shot Ministry.  

    More >>
  • Biloxi Shuckers held off the Blue Wahoos 5-4 in Pensacola Tuesday night

    Biloxi Shuckers held off the Blue Wahoos 5-4 in Pensacola Tuesday night

    Tuesday, July 25 2017 10:39 PM EDT2017-07-26 02:39:53 GMT

    The Biloxi Shuckers were coasting under the win column until Pensacola exploded for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to close the gap.  Luckily, Biloxi would close the door on the Blue Wahoos rally.

    More >>

    The Biloxi Shuckers were coasting under the win column until Pensacola exploded for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to close the gap.  Luckily, Biloxi would close the door on the Blue Wahoos rally.

    More >>
  • Bus drivers preparing for school year

    Bus drivers preparing for school year

    Tuesday, July 25 2017 10:38 PM EDT2017-07-26 02:38:14 GMT
    234 Harrison County School District buses hit the roads every day. (Photo source: WLOX News)234 Harrison County School District buses hit the roads every day. (Photo source: WLOX News)

    In less than two weeks most schools across the Coast will be back in session and the roads will be filled with school buses.  Leading up to the first day of school Harrison County offers training for new bus drivers with the focus on a top priority. 

    More >>

    In less than two weeks most schools across the Coast will be back in session and the roads will be filled with school buses.  Leading up to the first day of school Harrison County offers training for new bus drivers with the focus on a top priority. 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly