ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - A car crashed into a fire hydrant in St. Johns County Monday night, causing a large hole to open and nearly swallow the vehicle. St. Johns County deputies referred to it as a sinkhole, but was it a sinkhole?
First Coast News turned to Nick Hudyma, Ph.D P.E., a professor at the University of North Florida School of Engineering to determine if "sinkhole" is the correct term to describe it.
“The term sinkhole is typically reserved for a natural phenomenon,” Hudyma said in an email. “The situation you describe is not technically a sinkhole, but many times it is referred to as a man-made (anthropogenic) sinkhole."
Hudyma added water from a leaking pipe or burst pipe may have had enough force to erode and wash away soil, creating a cavity below the surface. If the cavity is large enough, Hudyma said it may collapse.
While it may look like a sinkhole, it was not formed naturally and Hudyma discouraged using the term “man-made sinkhole.”
First Coast News also checked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“If a depression is not verified by a licensed professional geologist or engineer to be a true sinkhole, the event is referred to as a subsidence incident,” said Jason Mahon, public information specialist with DEP.
DEP’s website explained other events, like broken sewer and drain pipes, may cause holes that mimic sinkholes.