TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sinkholes in Florida are nothing new, but they they are causing new problems across Florida in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby.
Harley Means of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says that the long time problem is caused by Florida’s foundation — limestone.
“The real reason that … sinkholes exist in florida is because under our feet the geological strata that occurred there — in our case its lime stone — is able to be dissolved away over geologic time by acidic rain water,” Means explained.
The rain water from Tropical Storm Debby served as a catalyst for many sinkholes across North Florida.
“From time to time you have an event, like Tropical Storm Debby and that is coincided with a drought. Forgive my pun, but it’s a perfect storm. It’s exactly when we see sinkhole activity; and, as geologists, we actually predicted [this when] we saw Tropical Storm Debby coming in. We were in a very serious drought in most of Florida,” Means said.
In Leon County, one sinkhole is causing a lake to go dry. The hole in Lake Jackson is at least thirty to forty feet deep, and formed there more than a month ago. Michael Hill of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says that the sinkhole is affecting the ecology of that area; in combination with drought, it is draining a very small portion of that body of water.
He says that the main reason the lake is getting so shallow is because of the evaporation and the transpiration of the water vapor coming through the plants. The second reason is the lake’s sandy bottom. The fourth way the water leaves the lake is through the aforementioned sinkholes.
But, when it comes to fishing, Hill says that most of Lake Jackson is safe and the fish are biting, but some homeowners that have purchased land on Lake Jackson say that they are very upset that they’re looking at a dry lake bed.
It’s unclear if officials are going to plug up the sinkhole.
Other residents have another struggle–insurance. In Live Oak and other areas, sinkholes are threatening buildings and destroying homes — causing a big impact on homeowners insurance.
Insurance experts, like Nina Ashley, say sinkholes on your property could cause you to lose coverage on your home.
She says that those affected by sinkholes on their property need to talk to their claims adjuster immediately.
“They need to report the damage and work off what the adjuster tells them. If the home needs repairs, they need to make the repairs and get copies that those repairs have been made appropriately,” Ashley said.
“If the home is totaled, they will need to work under that arrangement and either rebuild entirely or understand that the home will be totaled … The total loss of that home and the total payout on that home concludes the terms of that policy. Once they make repairs or rebuild, they then can go look for new coverage.”
If consumers have any questions concerning their homeowner policies, they can contact the consumer service helpline at 1-877-693-5236.