BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When sinkholes happen, the Earth can swallow up people or property, and the results can be deadly.
Just recently a man was swallowed up and killed by a sinkhole that opened underneath his bed while he was sleeping in his Florida home. Western New York has had its fair share of sinkhole scares.
The ground gave way underneath a Batavia man’s feet recently while he was fixing his fence.
“All of a sudden I just dropped into the ground,” the man described. “I go down about four feet and the fence ends up falling up on me.”
Something similar happened to a Cheektowaga family in 2010. A sinkhole swallowed the water right out of the pool while the kids were swimming.
And last year, a sinkhole along the Erie Canal in Albion cost $1.3 million to repair.
In North Buffalo, a car fell through the pavement on Hertel Avenue.
So what causes these sinkholes to form?
University at Buffalo Geology Professor Dr. Marcus Bursik says there are two types of sinkholes. One type is caused by aging infrastructure, like old pipes that burst underground and eventually cause a collapse on the surface. This is more common and is sometimes called a “fake sinkhole.”
The other type, Dr. Bursik explained, “is a thing that you get in limestone terrains where limestone is near the Earth’s surface.”
The limestone is easily dissolved in water, which creates a hole underground. The surface eventually will not have the support it needs, causing a cave in.
If a sinkhole like that were to happen in Western New York, Williamsville would be a prime location.
“Because we do have a lot of limestone terrain in this area and we do have a pretty good precipitation rate,” Dr. Bursik said. “There are indicators sometimes. Not always, but sometimes.”
Officials say look for depressions in your yard, shifts in your home, and cracks on the pavement surface. You can also get an expert to perform geological tests on your property, but those can be costly.
Dr. Bursik said while our area could see a sinkhole, fake sinkholes are likely to happen more and more as our infrastructure ages, causing hidden problems below the surface.