LIVE OAK, FLA., JUNE 30, 2023 – With the recent heavy rainfall across the District following the prolonged dry period, the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) wants to ensure local residents are educated about the potential for sinkholes in Florida.
Due to the underlying limestone in Florida’s geology, sinkholes are a common feature of our landscape. Sinkholes are one of many kinds of karst landforms, which also includes caves, disappearing streams and rivers, and springs.
When rainfall moves down through the soil, it becomes acidic and dissolves this carbonate rock and can create underground spaces and caverns. This creates a Swiss cheese effect underground.
While natural, sinkholes can be problematic because the land usually stays intact for a period of time until the underground spaces become large in size. If there is not enough support for the land above the spaces, then a gradual or sudden collapse of the land surface can occur, causing a sinkhole.
Rainfall can intensify the formation of sinkholes when it is preceded by a prolonged dry period.
But what should you do if you suspect a new sinkhole could be forming in your yard or on your property? While each situation is unique, here are some things to remember:
- Depending on the location of the sinkhole, and its proximity to anything of value – a house, for example – your first call should be to your insurance company and possibly emergency personnel. Always use caution when approaching a sinkhole. You can also follow up with the District or Florida Geological Survey (FGS), who may be able to provide information on the general geology of your area; but any additional, more detailed assessments would need to be conducted by a geotechnical company.
- If the sinkhole isn’t near anything of value, it may require simple monitoring over time. Sinkholes will typically grow to the same size as others in the general area based on the similar geology. You can also contact the District or FGS with questions about the geology of your area.
- If a new sinkhole does not get bigger over time and is a manageable size, filling it could be an option for safety purposes. If it is safe to approach and not near anything of value, the District recommends filling it with clean sand or rock materials that are loose enough to fill the hole if it continues to grow in size.
- Finally, if the sinkhole does not threaten anything of value or endanger people or animals, there is no need to do anything beyond enjoying the view of the newest geologic feature on the landscape.
The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, Florida, the District serves 15 surrounding north-central Florida counties.
Sinkholes give us a glimpse into the underground aspects of Florida’s geology – allowing us to better understand the unique nature of our resource. Interested in checking out a sinkhole? The District has many sinkholes on its properties for visitors to observe.