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Florida’s sinkholes aren’t better, they’re just different

Thu Mar 5th, 2015 on     Homeowners Insurance,    

We are continuing our discussion of sinkholes and the difference between New Jersey and Florida. New Jersey has, as we said, had a rash of sinkholes appear; one swallowed a snow plow. Florida, of course, has its own Sinkhole Alley — Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties — and a reputation to maintain.

The state is not a sinkhole waiting to happen, but the northern half or two-thirds of Florida has just the right geological makeup for sinkhole formation. A company that “buys sinkhole homes” has posted University of South Florida sinkhole maps (state and county) on its website. The company appears to have added a disclaimer to the state map:

Do not be fooled by this map. Sinkholes occur all over the world. With Florida’s soft sands and swamps, any location has the potential for sinkhole activity.

Well, yes, that’s true. Look at the giant sinkhole in Siberia and a small sinkhole in a friend’s backyard in Connecticut.

The sinkholes in New Jersey had one important thing in common, though, and it wasn’t a natural phenomenon. With the snow plow, for example, residents in the areas reported problems with water pressure the night before. Sure enough, water and sewer pipes were broken. Is it possible they were giving way the night before?

Politicians have been carping about the country’s decaying infrastructure for more than a few election cycles. The news reports about the sinkholes in New Jersey tend to mention a leaking water main or broken pipe that could have caused the collapse. Chances are that pipe is more than 50 years old.

While Florida is well acquainted with sinkhole basics, it seems New Jersey is not. A sinkhole forms — that is, the earth collapses — above an underground cavity. It’s not a chicken/egg question. The underground collapse precedes the formation of the sinkhole.

Florida can thank Mother Nature for our sinkholes. New Jersey may want to thank its aging infrastructure.

Florida also requires homeowners insurance companies to offer sinkhole coverage. New Jersey does not.

At least, not yet.

Sources:, “Lopatcong sinkhole filled and road open, paving to begin in spring,” Emily Cummins, Feb. 23, 2015, “Sinkhole shuts down busy stretch of Newark Avenue in Jersey City,” Summer Dawn Hortillosa, Feb. 23, 2015

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