Florida leads the nation in a number of unique things. For example, we lead the nation in the number of registered boats per capita, and it’s not particularly close. This makes sense when you consider we also lead the entire continental US in terms of miles of coastline (only Alaska beats us in that regard). However, we also lead the nation in power outages, according to a study by the Miami New Times last year. And somewhat surprisingly, Florida also leads in yet another strange statistic: we are the number one state in the country in the number of sinkholes that appear year after year.
What Is a Sinkhole?
A sinkhole is a sudden sinking of land, resulting in a large hole that forms almost instantly. Generally, this is caused by erosion or shifting of the soil beneath a patch of land causing the land to become unstable, eventually collapsing in on itself and creating the hole. In some cases sinkholes are small and only measure a few feet across. However, some of the largest holes ever recorded have been large enough to swallow up entire buildings and deal millions of dollars in damage almost instantly.
Why is Florida so prone to these issues? Because Florida’s soil contains a pretty thick layer of granular, sandy sediment located underground. Water flowing through this soil can cause it to shift, settle, or erode, particularly during heavy rains or large storms. Eventually, large spaces can form in this soil where erosion has been particularly significant, and before long the weight of the land above the eroded space causes the land to collapse in on itself.
Preparing for Sinkholes
If a sinkhole forms on your property, you could be at risk for serious consequences. Even a small sinkhole could cause major damage, including causing all or part of your building to collapse into the hole itself. Thus, preparation is extremely important for home and business owners.
The first part of preparation should be to continually keep an eye on your property and look for signs that your foundation may be sinking, shifting, or adjusting in some way. Check your building for cracks, particularly down low along your home’s siding or even in the block foundation of your home. Also look for cracks along joints, windows, and doors, as they are generally the areas most prone to shifting during this slow, small foundation movement. Doors and windows that won’t open or close properly are also usually a sign of shifting or unsettled foundations.
You should also keep a lookout for previously buried items, such as fence posts and trees. If the sinking ground is exposing more and more of the bottoms of these things, then the soil may be receding beneath them. If you notice cracks in a circular pattern or even water accumulating or ponding in new areas, that’s usually an indication of a new low-point on your property, and that’s a sign of sinking that could lead to a sinkhole. We strongly recommend having a licensed inspector come check your property if you suspect you are seeing signs of a sinkhole so you can get an accurate diagnosis quickly if you suspect you see signs of a sinkhole.
What to Do if a Sinkhole Forms
The first thing you need to check after a sinkhole forms is whether anyone has been injured. Get help for anyone who may need it right away and call emergency services. The next thing you need to do is check any of your utility lines. It’s not uncommon for sinkholes forming under buildings to damage water lines, gas lines, electrical connections, sewage lines, and anything else that may have been buried in your slab or in the soil beneath your home. If you notice any water or gas leaks, call your utility company and get your connections shut off right away. Also, get anyone out of the affected building (be it your home or business), as the ground may be unsafe or unstable.
Do your best to document anything you know may have been damaged by the sinkhole as well, including any possessions that may need to be fixed or that may be completely lost as a result of the sinking.
The Cleanup & Salvage Process
Cleaning up after a sinkhole can be a pretty brutal task. For starters, you’ll need to repair any damage that may have occurred to your home or business, and that could be labor-intensive if your foundation has been compromised in any way. If your utility lines have been damaged, such as water or gas, then you’ll more than likely need the help of a property restoration company that can remove any signs of mold or lingering gas smells from your home (both of which could have serious consequences on your indoor air quality).
If your home has suffered sinkhole damage, the property restoration experts at FP Property Restoration may be able to help! Give us a call at (888) 408-2335 and talk to a member of our team today.