Overdevelopment may be partially to blame for Florida’s sinkhole woes
Over the last several years, sinkhole activity in Florida has skyrocketed. In fact, according to an annual report issued by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, there were an astonishing 24,671 sinkhole insurance claims in Florida during a four-year period running from 2006 to 2010. Consequently, many geological experts are now investigating the reasons for this dramatic increase in Florida sinkhole frequency.
One of the most common reasons posited for the recent uptick in sinkholes is the overdevelopment of Florida land. For instance, Randall Orndorff recently told the New York Times that the development of roads and parking lots creates substantial water runoff into ditches and drains, essentially turning this water into torrents as it goes underground – torrents that create voids and channels in the rocks. In addition, increased instances of acid rain can easily cut voids in the porous limestone bedrock common to Florida.
Interestingly, however, the creation of these underground voids is merely half the problem. For instance, these holes and caverns are significantly less dangerous if filled with water as the water continues to act as a support for the land above.
Sadly, though, overdevelopment in Florida has also led to increases in water needs for houses and agriculture – thus lowering water levels and leaving these cavernous holes completely empty. This makes it almost inevitable that sinkholes will develop when the land above the voids can no longer support the new development.
Indicators of possible Florida sinkhole damage
Unfortunately, most Florida homeowners have no idea if overdevelopment in their area has led to the creation of sinkholes, which means they need to keep an eye out for signs of potential sinkhole activity. This is especially true for homeowners living in the Tampa area, which is part of Florida’s now infamous “sinkhole alley.”
Some of the many possible indicators of sinkholes that homeowners should be aware of include:
- Sizeable cracks around door and window frames
- Sloping floors
- Separation of walls from ceilings or floors
- Holes or depressions in the yard
- Slanting trees
- Crack in swimming pools
If you are Florida homeowner that has witnessed some of these telltale signs and believe a sinkhole is to blame, it is generally advisable to speak with a knowledgeable sinkhole attorney before settling with your insurance provider. An experienced attorney can help investigate the extent of your sinkhole damage and assist in making sure you get the money you are entitled to under your insurance policy.