With the rain gone, what’s next?
With the impact of Hurricane Irma plaguing the Tampa Bay area it is important to stay ready and alert as weather extremes such as heavy rains can lead to sinkhole development.
“Extremes of rainfall, both above and below normal, can be a factor in activating existing sinkholes. These can disrupt the water table, up or down, while also dislodging the loose material covering openings in the limestone.” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews said
“Limestone is slightly soluble in acidic groundwater [owing to organic matter as well as acidic rainfall]. Over vast spans of time, limestone bedrock can become riddled with openings dissolved out by ground water flowing to the water table,” Andrews said. “Some openings become the caves, great and small, that we are all familiar with. The groundwater carries away the dissolved calcium carbonate that is the essential mineral in limestone.”
An overburden of soil and other loose material normally covers the bedrock undergoing dissolution, Andrews explained.
“Inevitably, this loose material will find its way into the bedrock openings, hiding them from sight. Once the void exceeds certain limits, a significant collapse of material into the void can happen, resulting in the surface disturbance we know as a sinkhole,” Andrews said. “Over geological time, landscapes on limestone bedrock develop distinctive character shaped by dissolution and collapse. This is known as Karst; there are often pits with permanent or temporary ponds/lakes.”
Warm, wet climates cause the fastest dissolution of limestone bedrock and this is where Karst, with its natural sinkholes, is best developed, Andrews said. However, Karst can even be found in deserts, where it is likely be a leftover from a “fossil” wet climate, long-ago turned dry.
Active sinkholes can be relatively small, a few feet, or they can measure many tens of feet across/deep, depending upon how big the underground void was and how much material flowed into it.
“Anything of importance above the collapse can be drawn into it. The bigger the sinkhole, the greater is the risk of property loss,” Andrews said. “New sinkhole collapses usually involve existing sinkholes; these may or may not have been known to exist before collapse.”
So what happens if you think your property has a sinkhole?
If you notice signs of movement in your property, and you suspect sinkhole activity, there are a series of steps you should take to determine if sinkhole activity is actually present. Remain calm. Remember, major sinkholes are extremely rare, and there are many professionals available to assist you.
Of course, if you see an actual cavity in the ground, you should take steps to make sure anyone who might come into the area stays away from the danger. You should rope off such an area completely, and if there is immediate danger to life or property, call emergency services. Contact your insurance company as well.
When you contact your insurance company, they will ask for information, and if appropriate, they will have an insurance adjustor determine if further investigation by a technical expert is warranted. If so, the insurance company will call in a certified engineer to evaluate the situation and conduct appropriate testing. The engineer will issue a report giving a detailed opinion about the cause of the damage. If there is indeed sinkhole activity, then your insurance company will come up with a repair plan.
When to bring in the best?
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