If you live in the Tampa Bay area or elsewhere in West Central Florida, you may have experienced flooding as a result of Hurricane Irma. Although the hurricane struck Florida's Gulf Coast back in the second week of September and the cleanup and recovery processes are well underway (if not complete) for many homeowners, it is important to consider the possible link between hurricane flooding and sinkhole damage. To be clear, according to a report from AccuWeather, heavy rain from hurricanes, as well as flooding, can trigger sinkholes that can damage property and destroy homes.
Recent Sinkholes in Florida Triggered By Hurricane Irma Rain and Flooding
In the last month, there have been a number of reports of sinkholes opening up in Florida, and geologists believe that Hurricane Irma may be to blame. For instance, an article in USA Today reported on a West Central Florida home that "plunged into a 15-foot-deep, 25-foot-wide crater." One of the homeowners, a 71-year-old Floridian, indicated that he had been sleeping with his wife as they noticed the walls of their home began to crumble. By early the following morning, the couple "saw big deep cracks in the bathroom," and they realized that "the tub was sinking and the window was coming loose." The homeowners managed to get out of the property safely, but news reports indicated that their home was "devastated."
Elsewhere in Florida, according to an ABC News report, a sinkhole opened up after Hurricane Irma and swallowed a motor vehicle. Reports indicate that the sinkhole opened up unexpectedly and quickly as the driver was in the road. The driver called 911 and was instructed to evacuate from the vehicle. Officials attributed the sinkhole to flooding related to the hurricane. Nearby, an additional sinkhole was reported to have formed as well.
Why Do Heavy Rains and Flooding Lead to Sinkholes and Property Damage?
The U.S. Geological Survey lists Florida as one of seven states where sinkholes are most frequent and devastating, and West Central Florida is at particular risk given the geological makeup of the region. As the AccuWeather report explains, "weather extremes such as heavy rains . . . can lead to sinkhole development." After a hurricane strikes, or just comes close to West Central Florida, the rainfall levels often rise dramatically. In addition, flooding can occur. The geological makeup of Florida land already makes the state susceptible to sinkholes, but extreme weather can make a sinkhole even more likely.
Why do heavy rains and flooding result in more sinkholes opening up? The AccuWeather report indicates that there are two primary reasons:
● Disruptions in the water table occur, making a sinkhole more likely; and/or
● Heavy rains and flooding can dislodge loose material that covers up openings in Florida's limestone.
To be clear, natural sinkholes occur most frequently in limestone bedrock, which means most of West Central Florida is subject to sinkholes, but hurricanes can increase the risk of sinkhole damage occurring.
Contact a West Central Florida Sinkhole Damage Lawyer
Has your home started to show signs of sinkhole damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma? You should speak with a West Central Florida sinkhole damage attorney to learn more about filing a claim. Contact the Wells Law Group, P.A. for more information about how we can assist you.