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The thought of a giant hole splitting open the ground without warning seems like it should only exist in movies, but sinkholes are an increasingly common phenomenon with grave consequences.
On July 18, 2022, a massive sinkhole opened in the Bronx, gobbling up a van and a significant amount of the road. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a woman fell into a sinkhole that opened up in the lot of a used car dealership on Sept. 15, 2022. Luckily she had only minor injuries, despite multiple cars falling in with her. A van drove into a sinkhole in the middle of the street in Evansville, Indiana, just a day later. A water main break, which was in the process of being repaired, caused the sinkhole.
In light of recent sinkhole occurrences across the U.S., Stacker investigated some of the primary risk factors for sinkholes and where those factors may be present using information from the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientific sources.
There are multiple ways sinkholes can form, but the three main categories are dissolution sinkholes, cover-subsidence sinkholes, and cover-collapse sinkholes. All three types of sinkholes require the movement of significant amounts of soil or bedrock to make a hole in the ground.
Dissolution sinkholes happen when the bedrock underneath the ground is dissolved by rain or other water, washing away the foundation supporting the ground and resulting in a dip in the surface. Cover-subsidence sinkholes occur when large amounts of sediment move to fill in a cavern or crack beneath the surface, forming a similar dip. Cover-collapse sinkholes are similar, but instead of the surface of the ground moving as the sediment wears away, it preserves a thin layer of earth and eventually collapses under pressure.
Read on to learn about the science behind sinkholes.
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