Sinkholes Reported in St. Augustine: How to Identify One and What to Do About It

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A huge sinkhole in Crescent Beach, caused by a torrential downpour during the recent Hurricane Matthew, shows that a hurricane can be disastrous even after it passes. The problem is that sinkholes have a tendency to show up out of nowhere, if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The Crescent Beach sinkhole formed on A1A, just south of St. Augustine, according to WJXT. Several sinkholes have formed elsewhere along Florida’s coast, suggesting this is not an isolated incident. With that in mind, it could be good for homeowners to learn how to spot a burgeoning sinkhole. After all, this could help keep their families — and their property — safe.

This type of damage is not uncommon following a storm, but may go unnoticed or unreported in the whirlwind of recovery. There are many important considerations when evaluating the safety and future of your home.

What Exactly Is A Sinkhole?

There are many types of ground degradation in Florida, and not all sudden depressions in the soil qualify as a sinkhole. The United States Geological Survey generally defines a sinkhole as “an area of ground that has no natural external surface drainage — when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface.”

Sinkholes vary widely in size, from just a foot wide and deep to acres of land, hundreds of feet down. The sinkhole on St. Crescent Beach is about six feet deep, and swallowed both grass and cement. It appears fairly bowl-shaped, but some sinkholes have walls, and still others can hold water and eventually form ponds. A sinkhole of the size reported could seriously endanger your life and your home.

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Identifying a sinkhole is often straightforward. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors shares several tips on what to look for. For example, take care to notice sagging in the foundation or cracks in walls or the exterior of your home. Other, tougher to spot signs exist. These include plants or grass unexpectedly wilting due to a disappearance of underground water, or the presence of sediment in your water supply.

When in doubt, report the sinkhole or potential symptoms of a sinkhole to your local government and remove yourself from harm’s way.

Staying Sinkhole Safe

A sinkhole is dangerous regardless of its size. The Lake County Public Works department of Florida presents valuable information on protecting yourself from a sinkhole. There is no easy way to tell the extent to which your property might be affected, and further developments in the collapse of a sinkhole might occur that can put you in harm’s way.

Sinkhole formation during a storm is often triggered by sudden collapse, and damage can be deceiving. Do not enter a sinkhole or attempt to fill it yourself without an evaluation. Keep pets and people away from the area.

Several different kinds of sinkholes exist. In some cases, they are dangerous and require professional inspection. Seek out the assistance of a local sinkhole expert or the government depending on the severity of your sinkhole.

Even small sinkholes and isolated depressions can be deadly. Any structural damage to your home or property should be immediately reported to determine if your home is safe for continued occupancy.

Filling the Gap

There are some sinkholes that homeowners can fix on their own, and others that are dangerous and need professional attention. Lake County Public Works suggests if the hole is small enough, you may be able to fix it yourself. You can sometimes measure the extent of the sinkhole with a metal rod, which will easily find purchase in softer, vulnerable sink ground. Monitoring the hole with stakes and watching for water flowing into the sinkhole might also indicate its severity.

You can possibly fill the sinkhole yourself with fine sand if it proves less dangerous or severe, reports say. Do not use the sinkhole as a drainage system or dump waste into it when you fill it.

If your sinkhole is significant, but no damage to your home is evident, a contractor can often be enlisted to repair your sinkhole. However, sometimes a sinkhole can present itself and cause damage to your property. If you’re ready to talk to an attorney, please fill out this free, no-risk case evaluation. We’re here to help.

By Staff