New mapping system may identify where sinkholes are likely to form

$1.1 million program done by Fla. Geological Survey, funded by FEMA

By Julie Broughton - Anchor
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A new mapping system by the Florida Geological Survey may help identify where sinkholes are likely to form.

The $1.1 million program will begin next month, according to Professional Geologist Clint Kromhout, and is partially funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kromhout tells Local 6 FEMA first contacted the FGS after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012. Debby dumped record rainfall across much of the state, resulting in numerous sinkholes.

Florida leads the nation in sinkholes, and according to Kromhout, it's difficult to predict when or where one may happen. Kromhout says his agency does not have an accurate estimate of the number of sinkholes that happen in Florida yearly. That's because many likely happen in unpopulated areas and are not reported.

This study will first focus on Suwanne, Hamilton and Columbia counties. Kromhout says these areas where chosen because they are geologically diverse.

Geologists will collect samples from limestone, as well as the sediment on top of that limestone. Depth of aquifer will also be studied.

Sinkholes from when the limestone that makes up our landscape dissolves from carbonic acid in rain. That creates a void in space, and when the overlying sediments, like sand, clay and soil, become too heavy, the ground collapses. Sinkholes typically increase when we see heavy rain after an extended dry period.

Kromhout tells Local 6 a statewide map should be available in the next two to three years.

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