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Sinkholes unearthed: could it happen in your yard? - abc27 WHTM

Cumberland County

Sinkholes unearthed: could it happen in your yard?

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SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

You may have heard of sinkholes causing problems in roadways, but in Cumberland County it has caused a home to be condemned.  Experts say sinkholes could happen all over Central Pennsylvania.

Recently, sinkholes have made headlines all over the nation.  In Florida a man was killed when a sinkhole beneath his home gave way.  So, what exactly causes sinkholes, and is there any way to know before they happen?

According to Dr. Sean Cornell, an associate professor of geology at Shippensburg University, they are very common.

"We are plagued by sinkholes," he said, "The challenge becomes how do you recognize them."

He explained, that underneath the ground's surface, there are different rock layers and formations.  In those layers, are fractures, that give a place for water to travel.  When acid rain gets in contact with the rock, it can dissolve it away, and eventually, cavities can be formed.

Over time, enough rain, or water from a water line break, will fill those cavities, and weaken the ground above.  Over time, that ground will sink in.  Cornell said if you notice a pooling of water in your yard that suddenly disappears, or cracks in your foundation, those could be clues that you have a sinkhole developing.  If you see an area that seems depressed, it is better to be proactive and have a professional take a look, especially if the area is near your home's foundation.

He added that due to the makeup of the underground rock formation in Pennsylvania, sinkholes tend to be much smaller than the large ones reported in Florida.  Still, depending on where the sinkhole develops, the damage could be extensive.

Recently, a water main break caused several sinkholes to form in South Middleton Township.   Brian O'Neill, the township engineer, said the sinkholes caused a lot of damage, especially for a house nearby.  The house was condemned, and the road has been patched, but several smaller sinkholes still need to be filled.

O'Neill said sinkholes are the responsibility of the homeowner, so it is wise to make sure you have coverage for that type of disaster under your homeowner's insurance policy.

Getting sinkholes repaired before they cause major damage could be worth the expense, according to O'Neill.

"Basically the effort they want to put into correcting the problem, the amount of money they want to spend is the guarantee the sinkhole won't come back," he said.

For more information on sinkholes, please visit www.sinkholes.com.

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