The Sunshine State is caving in. On Saturday, July 19, a massive sinkhole measuring 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep opened up in a front lawn in Spring Hill, Florida, a suburb 50 miles north of Tampa. “Out of nowhere the earth just went straight up in the air and exploded," a local resident told ABC News. No one was hurt by the Spring Hill sinkhole, but Florida authorities say it is expanding and threatening to consume several nearby homes.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, nearly 300 cave-ins have occurred in Florida since 2010. A high incident rate of sinkholes greater than 80-feet in diameter has earned the area around Tampa the nickname: "Sinkhole Alley." Scientists maintain that the hollow caverns in Florida’s limestone topography, which are often hidden just a few feet below the surface, are the cause of the sinkholes. When water erodes certain types of rock formations, such as salt domes or limestone beds, a giant bubble of air creates a hole or “sink” in the earth.
Florida isn’t the only place affected by sinkholes. The United States Geological Service claims that 20 percent of the country is susceptible sinkholes. NASA routinely collects radar data from airborne systems to help foresee and predict sinkholes before they happen. Mother Nature, however, often has something far different in mind. Here are 10 of the world’s most horrifying sinkholes.
10 Devil’s Sinkhole, Texas
Devil’s Sinkhole is a 400-foot vertical formation that has attracted cave explorers from all over the world. Discovered by Aaron Billings in 1876, the natural landmark is believed to be the largest single-chamber cavern in Texas. Moreover, the chasm houses one of the state’s largest colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats, and from spring to early fall tourists flock to see 3 million of the nocturnal creatures stream into the sky. Devil’s Sinkhole was added to the National Registry of Natural Monuments in the 1970s. Due to the large number of artifacts and arrowheads found in the area, scientists believe that Native Americans considered Devil’s Sinkhole to be a sacred site.
9 Daisetta, Texas
It started out as a small, 20-foot wide sinkhole. But over a few days geologists said the Daisetta crater grew to be 260-feet deep and 900-feet long. Located 60 miles northeast of Houston, Daisetta was once a booming oil town. The town sits atop a massive salt dome, a geological topography prone to sinkholes. Trees, telephone poles, vehicles, and oil field equipment tumbled into the Daisetta crater, and residents said the crumbling dirt around the edges of the hole resembled sharp teeth. Filled with a mix of oil and mud, the sinkhole looked like a monstrous tar pit. No casualties were reported, and the ground eventually stabilized.
8 Winter Park Sinkhole, Florida
The Winter Park sinkhole made international headlines in 1981 because of its urban location and mammoth size. When it was done gobbling up Florida real estate, the gaping crater measured 350-feet wide and 75-feet deep. The sinkhole caused over $4 million in damages, swallowing up a three-bedroom home, part of the city’s swimming pool, and five Porsches from a foreign auto body shop. The Winter Park sinkhole became a central Florida tourist attraction, a Disneyesque destination where local vendors sold T-shirts and food and The Orlando Sentinel stationed photographers to document the spectacle.
7 Bowling Green, Kentucky
In 2014, in what can only be described as a surrealistic display of Mother Nature, a 60-foot wide hole opened in Bowling Green, Kentucky, gobbling up eight vintage corvettes from The National Corvette Museum. Luckily, nobody was hurt in the incident. The earth’s crust crumbled at 5:45 a.m, when the museum was closed. Nevertheless, the damaged cars included a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder, a 1994 PPG Pace Car, and a 1962 model. Museum attendance has increased 59 percent since the sinkhole, the chasm in the earth and the mangled muscle cars attracting 17,000 people a month. Repairs are set to begin in September, but the museum plans to leave a small portion of the crater visible.
6 Sharon Springs, Kansas
“Man had nothing to do with this. This is a God thing,” the Sharon Springs sheriff said. The monster sinkhole that opened up in western Kansas in 2013 measures 200-feet across and 90-feet deep, and it is getting bigger by the day. The freak chasm gobbled up an entire pasture almost overnight. It has become a popular curiosity amongst tourists, and fences and barricades have been erected to prevent people from getting too close. The sinkhole has been described as looking like a small canyon, and despite the increase in tourism, residents of the small Kansas community say the sinkhole puts them on edge. “There’s no oil well around here, there are no irrigation wells anywhere near. This is something that just happened,” the sheriff continued. And people want to know why.
5 Seffner, Florida
In March 2013, a sinkhole opened under the bedroom of a house in Seffner, Florida, swallowing 36-year old Jeffrey Bush. According to several news reports, the man’s brother, Jeremy, heard a scream, but “when he got there, there was no bedroom left. There was no furniture." All he saw was a piece of mattress sticking up out of a hole. The sinkhole was estimated to be 30-feet wide. Neighbors on both sides of the home were evacuated.
4 Saint-Jude: Quebec, Canada
In 2010, a family of four went missing after their home was sucked into a giant sinkhole northeast of Montreal. The crater was more than four times the size of a football field; it also engulfed three cars and a stretch of concrete road. The St. Lawrence River valley is known to be a geologically unstable area. The region is comprised of fine Leda clay soil; it packs hard, but when it gets too wet it can liquefy and run like soup, causing dangerous sinkholes and mudslides. After digging through the extensive rubble, the emergency management team was able to locate the bodies.
3 Guatemala City, Guatemala
A monstrous, almost perfectly circular sinkhole appeared in Guatemala City in 2010. According to National Geographic, the crater was 60 feet wide and 30 stories deep; scientist believe the massive sinkhole was likely months or years in the making and that the floodwaters from tropical storm Agatha caused it to finally collapse. The mammoth chasm took up an entire city block and swallowed a three-story building, but luckily there were no fatalities.
2 Sao Paulo, Brazil
On January 15, 2007, a 130-foot deep sinkhole opened up at the construction site of the Pinheiros subway station in Sao Paulo. Seven people died in the incident, including a passenger in a minivan that plummeted to the bottom of the pit. A landslide quickly followed the sinkhole as the crater’s lip gave way, pulling earth, asphalt, concrete, and numerous vehicles stationed along the edge of the surface into the chasm.
1 Berezniki, Russia
According to The New York Times, the Russian city of Berezniki is so afflicted by sinkholes that it is under 24-hour video surveillance. Mining regions are often plagued by sinkholes, but the danger is compounded in Berezniki, a city of 154,000 that began as a forced labor camp. In an attempt to cut costs and increase work production, the Russians built Berezniki directly over the mine.
Sinkholes became a serous problem for Berezniki beginning in 2006, when a freshwater spring began flowing into a mine where potash fertilizer was being extracted from salt 1,500 feet below the surface. The walls and pillars of salt began to dissolve, triggering a domino-effect of massive sinkholes. The largest hole in Berezniki opened in 2007. Some experts say it may be the largest manmade sinkhole in the world. Locals nicknamed it “The Grandfather.”