How much does sinkhole damage cost each year in the United States?

Sinkhole damages over the last 15 years cost on average at least $300 million per year. Since there is no national tracking of sinkhole damage costs, this estimate is probably much lower than the actual cost.

Learn more: USGS Water Science School - Sinkholes 

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I have (or think I have) a sinkhole on my property. What should I do?

While the USGS studies the types of rocks that can potentially form sinkholes, we don’t investigate individual sinkholes on private property. First, rule out human causes for your feature. Some sinkholes are caused by leaky underground pipes (talk to your utility company) and some are old construction pits or other buried materials that have...

What is the difference between a sinkhole and a pothole?

A sinkhole is a closed natural depression in the ground surface caused by removal of material below the ground and either collapse or gradual subsidence of the surface into the resulting void. A pothole is usually a fairly small feature caused by failure of paving materials, usually associated with roads, parking lots, and airports. In the colder...

What is the largest sinkhole in the United States?

There are some very large, ancient, ‘inactive’ sinkholes in some areas of the U.S. that are thousands of years old. Alabama claims to have the largest recent collapse sinkhole. It is called the “Golly Hole” and is located in Shelby County in the central part of the state. It collapsed suddenly in 1972. The sinkhole is about 325 feet long, 300 feet...

What is the difference between a sinkhole and land subsidence?

Sinkholes are just one of many forms of ground collapse, or subsidence. Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface owing to subsurface movement of earth materials. The principal causes of land subsidence are aquifer-system compaction, drainage of organic soils, underground mining, hydrocompaction, natural...

How many sinkholes open up in a year?

There is no database of sinkhole collapses for the United States, so these data are unavailable. Some individual state geologic surveys track reported collapses within their state. Many sinkhole collapses are not reported to authorities or news organizations, and many occur in rural areas where they are unobserved. Learn more: USGS Water Science...

What is a sinkhole?

A sinkhole is a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. Basically, this means that when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface. Sinkholes are most common in what geologists call, “karst terrain.” These are regions where the types of rock below the land surface...
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Date published: September 29, 2020

National Preparedness Month 2020: Landslides and Sinkholes

Natural hazards have the potential to impact a majority of Americans every year. USGS science provides part of the foundation for emergency preparedness whenever and wherever disaster strikes.

Filter Total Items: 23
October 25, 2016

Karst, Critters, and Climate Change

This webinar was conducted as part of the Climate Change Science and Management Webinar Series, co-hosted by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the FWS National Conservation Training Center. Webinar Description: One-half of North American imperiled species live in subterranean habitats, which largely are associated with karst (a type of

Shenandoah sinkholes and karst geology maps
June 30, 2015

Shenandoah sinkholes and karst geology

Shenandoah sinkholes and karst geology

USGS
April 3, 2011

An Unseen World Beneath Our Feet - Caves, Sinkholes and Springs

Randall Orndorff, Director of the Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center, discusses how Karst affects daily life. Beneath a quarter of the United States are rock types that can dissolve to form caves, sinkholes and other features. Nearly every state has rock layers of limestone, gypsum, and other soluble rocks we call ‘karst’. Karst is important for many reasons.

Photo collage of karst features in Buffalo National River
December 31, 2010

Karst features, Buffalo National River

Examples of karst features within the Buffalo National River Park. Karst is a type of topography that is formed over limestone, dolomite, or gypsum by dissolving or solution, and that is characterized by closed depressions or sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage (American Geological Institute Dictionary of Geologic Terms).

Image: Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010
January 1, 2010

Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010

More than 110 sinkholes formed in the Dover area of Florida during a freeze event in January 2010. Ground water levels dropped to record-setting lows as farmers pumped water to irrigate their plants for protection from the cold temperatures. The sinkholes destroyed homes, roads and sections of cultivated areas.

Image: Sinkhole Activity Damages Home.
January 1, 2010

Sinkhole Activity Damages Home.

Cracking along exterior walls is a sign of subsidence activity. Such severe structural damage from sinkholes can destroy homes and other structures. More than 110 sinkholes formed in the Dover area of Florida during a freeze event in January 2010. Ground water levels dropped to record-setting lows as farmers pumped water to irrigate their plants for protection from the

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Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010
January 1, 2010

Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010

More than 110 sinkholes formed in the Dover area of Florida during a freeze event in January 2010. Ground water levels dropped to record-setting lows as farmers pumped water to irrigate their plants for protection from the cold temperatures. The sinkholes destroyed homes, roads and sections of cultivated areas.

Image: Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010
January 1, 2010

Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010

More than 110 sinkholes formed in the Dover area of Florida during a freeze event in January 2010. Ground water levels dropped to record-setting lows as farmers pumped water to irrigate their plants for protection from the cold temperatures. The sinkholes destroyed homes, roads and sections of cultivated areas.

Image: Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010
January 1, 2010

Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010

More than 110 sinkholes formed in the Dover area of Florida during a freeze event in January 2010. Ground water levels dropped to record-setting lows as farmers pumped water to irrigate their plants for protection from the cold temperatures. The sinkholes destroyed homes, roads and sections of cultivated areas.

Image: Various Karst Features Along Peace River, Fl
June 30, 2009

Various Karst Features Along Peace River, Fl

Cypress Root Sink is also part of the Wabash Complex.

USGS
July 2, 2008

What are sinkholes?

Listen to hear the answer.

USGS CoreCast
May 8, 2008

What's Up With Sinkholes?

A huge sinkhole in Texas begs a few questions about this fascinating and sometimes hazardous phenomenon, so we sit down with USGS geologist Randy Orndorff to learn more.