New Urban Sinkholes In St. Louis And DC Stoke Public Concerns
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Forget worrying about the sky falling. These days, there’s more cause to be concerned about the ground collapsing. While you may not even know what a sinkhole is, it certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. But ever since a Florida man and his entire bedroom were swallowed up by the ground last month, sinkholes have been making headlines across the country.
Two more of these geological dangers have recently opened up, one in the nation’s capital and another on a St. Louis golf course. The St. Louis sinkhole managed to open up underneath golf enthusiast Mark Mihal, 43, as he enjoyed the links with his buddies. So far, the DC sinkhole is only responsible for some predictable jokes and Tweets.
Mihal is the co-founder of golfing website golfmanna.com. Last Friday, he and a group of golf buddies met for a game at the St. Louis course. According to his wife who retells the story on the website, Mihal had just hit his second shot on the fairway of the 14th hole and walked out towards the green to check the distance for the next player. Mihal fell about 18 feet underground through what he describes as a bell-shaped sink hole, the floor of which is about 10-feet wide.
“I felt the ground start to collapse and it happened so fast that I couldn’t do anything,” recalls Mihal on his website.
“I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too. It seemed like I was falling for a long time. The real scary part was I didn’t know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on.”
Another member of the golfing foursome called the clubhouse for help and asked for a ladder and some rope. The general manager quickly brought these things to the scene, but the 12-foot ladder was too short to allow Mihal to climb out on his own.
Ed Magaletta, the friend who placed the call to the clubhouse, volunteered to go into the sinkhole to help his friend out. Using the ladder, Magaletta climbed into the hole and tied the rope around Mihal. The rest of the men on the surface helped pull him out. Mihal emerged only twenty minutes after he had fallen with a hurt shoulder and a story his wife would find hard to believe.
“When he told me what had actually happened, I was just dumbfounded, and didn’t even know how to process it,” writes Lori Mihal in her account of the incident.
The DC sinkhole also hasn’t claimed any lives, but it’s already become the talk of the town. According to Reuters, the sinkhole is about one yard wide, ten feet deep, and blocked off with yellow caution tape.
Yet perhaps due to its location, (only a few miles away from the White House on Biltmore St.) many people have made the sinkhole out to be a much larger thing than it really is.
“25 ft deep sinkhole in DC today and it’s expanding. Seems like I got out at the right time. It was nice knowing you, Washington,” reads a Tweet from the Verge’s DC-based staffer T.C. Sottek.
The 25-foot number has been the number many have been using to describe the sinkhole, but DC police aren’t exactly sure where this figure came from. Speaking to the Washington Post, a police spokesperson said they didn’t measure the hole when they arrived on the scene yesterday afternoon.
Sinkholes are common in karst terrain regions, or areas where the rock just beneath the surface can be dissolved by groundwater. Once the rock is eroded away, the surface becomes unstable and sinkholes occur. According to the US Geological Survey, nearly one-fifth of the United States sits atop karst terrain and is therefore susceptible to sinkholes. The states most vulnerable to this geological event are Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.