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>>

  • Ocean Springs resident concerned about family in Puerto Rico

    Ocean Springs resident concerned about family in Puerto Rico

    Wednesday, September 20 2017 9:49 PM EDT2017-09-21 01:49:37 GMT
    Gloria Perez watches for any news from her hometown in Puerto RicoGloria Perez watches for any news from her hometown in Puerto Rico

    Ocean Springs resident Gloria Perez awaits any word from her family in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Perez, who came to South Mississippi 24 years ago, spent her day Wednesday watching the television, hoping for news following the landfall of Hurricane Maria. She last spoke to her family Tuesday night. 

    More >>

    Ocean Springs resident Gloria Perez awaits any word from her family in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Perez, who came to South Mississippi 24 years ago, spent her day Wednesday watching the television, hoping for news following the landfall of Hurricane Maria. She last spoke to her family Tuesday night. 

    More >>
  • Could oyster sack limit hurt local restaurants and businesses?

    Could oyster sack limit hurt local restaurants and businesses?

    Wednesday, September 20 2017 6:29 PM EDT2017-09-20 22:29:08 GMT
    To keep up with the demand, Quality Seafood’s business manager says they buy them from neighboring states. (Image Source: WLOX News)To keep up with the demand, Quality Seafood’s business manager says they buy them from neighboring states. (Image Source: WLOX News)

    Quality Seafood in Biloxi sells oysters year-round. To keep up with the demand, they buy them from neighboring states but always look forward to snagging the local ones.

    More >>

    Quality Seafood in Biloxi sells oysters year-round. To keep up with the demand, they buy them from neighboring states but always look forward to snagging the local ones.

    More >>
  • Mississippi fighting opioid crisis

    Mississippi fighting opioid crisis

    Wednesday, September 20 2017 6:19 PM EDT2017-09-20 22:19:59 GMT
    In 2016, Mississippi saw at least 211 deaths from drug overdoses. (Photo source: WLOX)In 2016, Mississippi saw at least 211 deaths from drug overdoses. (Photo source: WLOX)

    Psychologists from around the state are on the coast for the 2017 Mississippi Psychological Association Convention. Included on the agenda is what public health officials have called an opioid epidemic.

    More >>

    Psychologists from around the state are on the coast for the 2017 Mississippi Psychological Association Convention. Included on the agenda is what public health officials have called an opioid epidemic.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly