Are sinkholes occurring more often than they used to in Florida?

Last Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of a Seffner man, who was killed when a sinkhole opened beneath his bedroom while he slept. This tragedy was called a freak accident by many, but in the year since it occurred numerous massive sinkholes have been reported. Sinkholes nearly swallowed vehicles, homes and even a vacation resort here in Florida in 2013.

Are sinkholes occurring more frequently than they used to, or are they just receiving more publicity? It has not been proven whether sinkhole activity has actually increased in recent years. The Florida Geological Survey is currently working to better understand sinkhole trends, and predict where sinkhole activity might occur and why.

One geologist who is featured in a documentary about sinkholes, “Sinkholes: Swallowed Alive,” contends that one reason sinkholes may seem more common is simply that more people are moving into sinkhole territories.

Florida is particularly prone to sinkholes due to its very erodible terrain – the state’s fragile limestone bedrock sustains damage from rain and sand, which create underground caves within the rock. Sinkholes can form when the surface material caves in, which can be triggered by downpours or water being pumped out of the ground, among other things.

Some say that urban sprawl, coupled with developers failing to adequately screen sinkhole areas and address drainage issues, has led to an uptick in sinkhole activity. Others say that there is simply increased reporting of sinkholes because more homeowners know what to look for.

While most sinkhole activity is not catastrophic, sinkholes do often severely damage property. It can be very difficult for homeowners to have sinkhole damage repaired properly – or to sell their sinkhole-damaged homes. Florida residents who have observed signs of sinkhole damage on their properties may benefit from seeking legal advice about how to file a sinkhole damage insurance claim.

Source: Huffington Post, “More Sinkhole Sightings Don’t Necessarily Mean More Sinkholes, Geologist: David Moye,” Feb. 28, 2014