MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) A University of South Alabama Geology Professor said though catastrophic sinkholes like those found in Florida recently are not likely in South Alabama, he said other types of sink holes can occur.
For the third time in a week, a sinkhole was discovered in West-Central Florida. The most recent one was found Tuesday morning at a home in Pinellas county, Florida. A woman inside the home called 9-1-1 after hearing a cracking noise. Firefighters found extensive cracks inside and outside the home.
Several nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution, but nobody was hurt.
Monday a sinkhole was discovered in neighboring Hillsborough County, which followed a deadly sinkhole that opened up last Thursday in the same area of Hillsborough County.
Dr. Douglas Haywick, an associate professor of geology, sedimentology, petroleum geology and mineralogy at the University of South Alabama, said the likely cause of the deadly sinkhole in the Hillsborough County neighborhood is the earth buckling above a limestone cavern once held up by water.
Haywick said limestone is found in most parts of Florida, Louisiana and Northern Alabama, which are prone to what he calls "classic sinkholes".
"It gets to be more of a problem, and this is where it approaches the catastrophic state," Haywick said, "is when you lose all of the support at once and everything here suddenly falls into what was an unsupported hole."
Though Mobile and Baldwin Counties have more of a shale and sand stratigraphy, Haywick said South Alabama has the potential for other sinkholes. One, he said, is caused by salt domes, which are rare. The other, Haywick said, is caused by engineering.
"The sewer line overflows is another phenomenon, another issue, that's, again, something that needs to be taken seriously in urban areas," Haywick said.
While recent sanitary sewer overflows caused by storm waters spewed thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into our waterways, Haywick said it also causes something called "piping".
"What piping will end up doing is causing the pipes to actually be undermined, and it can take sediment out and wash it away," Haywick said.
Haywick said piping can cause the earth collapse around roadways or where ever sewer lines run. Though not as deep as the classic sinkholes, Haywick said they are still dangerous and costly.
"Even if you fall down a couple of feet it causes potential damage to things like houses, foundations of buildings, etc.," Haywick said.
A MAWSS spokesperson said last week the company will be spending the next couple of months investigating why the more than 631,000 gallons of untreated storm water overflowed from lines last weekend.