BY ERIN JESTER
Rescue workers in Hillsborough County are still searching for a man who was swallowed by a sinkhole Thursday night, but chances of finding him alive are slim.
Despite his brother’s efforts to pull him from the rubble, Jeffrey Bush, 36, disappeared into the sinkhole that opened up under his room in a Seffner home, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
As of Friday morning, the site had become too unstable to attempt a rescue, and workers shifted their efforts toward recovery. Hillsborough Fire Rescue reportedly said there were no signs of life inside the sinkhole.
Though the story may terrify homeowners, experts say South Florida isn’t at risk for sinkholes that appear without warning.
“Over here, the geology is different,” said Don McNeill, a licensed geologist and professor of geology at the University of Miami. “We do have sinkholes, but they’re different styles of sinkholes.”
South Florida sinkholes, McNeill explained, are called dissolution sinkholes. They happen as sand and sediment dissolves through dissolution holes in limestone rock.
Sinkholes are uncommon in South Florida, though they have appeared in Hialeah and Miami Springs. When one opens up, it’s generally shallow and broad, developing over several days and settling like the sand in an hourglass, McNeill said.
Homeowners would notice large cracks in their walls and uneven ground long before anything is in danger of falling into a sinkhole.
“You usually have time to get away from these things,” McNeill said.
The Seffner sinkhole, on the other hand, is more of a “classic” sinkhole, caused by erosion of underground caverns.
In Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties (known to insurance adjusters as “sinkhole alley”), underground limestone caverns erode upward, and eventually the sediment on top becomes too weak to hold anything on top of it.
Even when the more dangerous, cavernous sinkholes open up, McNeill said people can usually climb out of them.
“The probability is very low that someone would be injured like that,” McNeill said.
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