Record-breaking cold temperatures across the country have wreaked havoc on streets from coast to coast. The severe weather has led to an alarming number of weather-related car accidents, flash flooding, mudslides, and downed trees and power lines across the United States. Another unfortunate yet common side effect of the storms is water-logged land that has given way to hundreds of large sinkholes.
A few examples of the serious sinkholes reported in the U. S. within the past 12 months:
- In Suffolk, Virginia, a sinkhole measured 15 feet deep x 20 feet across.
- Giant sinkholes in Wink, Texas posed serious hazards.
- A recent sinkhole in Studio City, California swallowed two vehicles.
- A massive sinkhole appeared just as a roadway collapsed into a sewage line in the Northern California city of Madera.
- A growing sinkhole in Tarpon Springs, Florida (which measured 100 feet wide and 16 feet deep at one point) forced the evacuation of local residents.
- A large sinkhole opened between two homes in Glenside, Pennsylvania at the beginning of the year.
- Just last month, the largest sinkhole on record for the area happened in Harbor, Oregon.
- CNN reported that a dog was rescued after being buried alive in a sinkhole.
What exactly is a sink hole?
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “A sinkhole can be defined as: an area of ground that has no natural external surface drainage. When it rains, water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface. Sinkholes can vary from a few feet to hundreds of acres and from less than one foot to more than 100 feet deep. Some are shaped like shallow bowls or saucers, whereas others have vertical walls. Some hold water, forming natural ponds.”
The three types of sinkholes include dissolution, cover-subsidence, and cover-collapse. Whatever the type, most occur so slowly that changes to the landscape are not immediately evident. This is also true of ground structure that has been compromised by buried bones. So, while it looks like they appear out of thin air, most require time to deteriorate into a full-blown collapse. Collapses most significantly impact structures and people when they happen in urban settings. In our ongoing effort to save lives through training, we wanted to devote this blog post to providing subscribers and friends with tips for spotting and safely reacting to sinkholes.
Conditions that foster sinkholes:
- Active wells
- Abandoned drywells, cesspools and septic tanks
- Buried swimming pools
- Old dumps that were later built-over
- Buried, abandoned building foundations
- Cracks, gaps, ravines opened by earthquakes
- Steep-sloped or otherwise unstable areas
- Moisture-soaked earth
- Streets and structures not retrofitted for safety
It is highly unlikely that a sinkhole would swallow a modern high-rise building. Whew. However, you could potentially encounter such an event while you are driving to or from work or school or while traveling to an area with relaxed building inspection protocols. If this happens, remain calm. Try to quickly drive or walk around the hazardous area. Finally, call 911 for help.
Remember that safety on the road is a priority for everyone across the country, all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.