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The vast majority of Florida consists of limestone bedrock that is primarily overlain by sand and sand mixed with clay and/or silt. As rainwater travels downward through these sand soils, it becomes increasingly acidic before joining the groundwater. The limestone is slowly dissolved away by this acidic water, forming voids (holes) and fissures (cracks) in the limestone. Depending on the local geologic conditions, this can result in different types of sinkholes. The two most common types of sinkholes affecting Florida homes, called "Cover Subsidence" and "Cover Collapse" sinkholes, are discussed below:

Cover Subsidence Sinkholes

The most common type of sinkhole affecting homes in Florida, cover subsidence sinkholes occur when the soils overlying the limestone begin to fall (by gravity) or get washed (from groundwater flow) into the voids and/or fissures. As this occurs, the soils overlying the limestone become less dense (a process called “raveling”). This raveling trend eventually travels upward as more soils enter into the voids and fissures, weakening the shallow soils and sometimes causing noticeable depressions in the ground surface. Any homes, buildings, or other structures that are supported by these weakened soils can experience ongoing damage that becomes progressively worse as the soils lose their strength. These sinkhole conditions typically develop slowly over thousands of years and rarely result in catastrophic damage.

Cover Collapse Sinkholes

Cover collapse sinkholes occur when a void forms beneath a layer of strong soil or limestone, which then acts as a "bridge" over the void. Over time, the strong soil or limestone layer may become weakened and/or the void may grow in size until the "bridge" collapses. As this occurs, the overlying soils move into the void quickly, and a large hole can rapidly develop at the ground surface in a matter of days, hours, or (rarely) minutes. While cover collapse sinkholes are less common than cover subsidence sinkholes, they have been known to cause sudden, catastrophic damage to houses, buildings, roads and other structures.

Links

For more information about Florida sinkholes and a map showing the predominant types of sinkholes experienced throughout Florida, click here.

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