Sinkhole Warning Signs

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(WFLA) — Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation, according to Florida’s Department of Financial Services.

Sinkholes can be hidden below the surface, or they can be seen above the surface. The Southwest Florida Water Management District describes sinkholes as depressions or collapses in the land surface. Sinkholes come in all sizes, they can be shallow, or deep, and can be small or large.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection says there is not a database that shows all of the sinkholes in the state. However, the Florida Geological Survey maintains a database of reported “subsidence incidents,” a subsidence is defined as a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface.

The FGS database contains subsidence incidents reported by observers. The data could include some sinkholes, but most have not been verified by professionals. Check out this map to see where subsidence reports have been filed in your area. 

Sinkholes can develop in all parts of Florida, according to the FGS. If you are concerned about sinkholes, we’ve gathered some of the signs you can watch for.

Sinkhole Warning Signs

1) New exposure showing on fence posts, foundation, and trees, that results when the ground sinks

2) Slumping, sagging or slanting fence posts, trees or other objects.

3) Doors and windows that fail to close properly.

4) Small ponds of rainfall where water has not collected before.

5) Turbidity in water in nearby wells during early stages of sinkhole development.

6) Wilting of small, circular areas of vegetation. This happens because moisture that normally supports vegetation in the area is draining into the sinkhole that is developing below the surface.

7) Cloudy water pumped from nearby wells, where the water was previously clear.

8) Cracks in walls, floors, pavement and the ground surface. This is most noticeable in a concrete block structure and is different from a few hairline cracks normally seen between blocks

9) Deep, narrow, vertical (chimney-like) holes in the ground that lead directly to the aquifer. Their lack of gradual, sloping sides makes them especially dangerous, since falling into one is like falling down a chimney. Holes resembling “chimneys” should be fenced, and reported to your county emergency management coordinator.

(Information compiled from Southwest Florida Water Management District, Lake County and the Suwannee River Water Management District)

If you think your property may be in danger, contact your insurance company to have an adjuster look at it. It may also be necessary to contact the local emergency management association. After the insurance adjuster surveys the area, they will contact an engineering firm to perform a series of tests to determine the threat of the potential sinkhole. Once the testing is complete, your insurance adjuster will notify you of the results. It is possible that you will not agree with the test findings the adjuster reports, and at that time it is imperative you hire an attorney as fighting this type of claim yourself is nearly impossible.