VERIFY: Is it a sinkhole?

VERIFY: Was a hole that swallowed a St. Johns Co. car a sinkhole

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.

 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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