Expect more sinkholes

Published: Mar. 4, 2013 at 9:39 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2013 at 9:39 PM EST
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This is what the sinkhole looked like the day it formed...
This is what the sinkhole looked like the day it formed...

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Some sinkholes have opened up in South Georgia since the recent heavy rains.

And engineers and public works experts say they expect more sinkholes to develop in the coming weeks. It's just nature at work, but it can really cause some problems.

All that rain should start more sinkholes to open up in the lower,  poorly draining areas, but experts say they don't expect anything like that Florida killer sinkhole around here.

A sinkhole opened up in Martha Strickland's backyard on Williams Street February 13th, causing a huge oak tree to fall onto her home.  Later that afternoon two large sinkholes opened at Sherwood Baptist Church's Legacy Park off Old Pretoria Road.

Engineers say based on history we should expect to see more in coming weeks. "Very typical for the Albany, Dougherty County area. We had a  lot of this in 1994 and 1998 if you recall," said Michael McNeal and Engineer for TTL.

South Georgia soil sits on top of limestone, and heavy rains saturate it and cause the limestone to dissolve and collapse, caving in the soil above it and forming the hole.

After the tragic death in Florida's sinkhole event, city officials say people have started to worry about their homes.

"I think we've had several call with people concerned they have possible sinkholes on their property," said Public Works Sewer Superintendent Ann Zimmer-Shepherd.

Experts say they have never heard of anything like the Florida sinkhole situation happening in South Georgia.

"Typically they are not that deep.  They typically, the ones I've seen may be 20 or 30 feet deep at the most.  Lot of them were shallower than that," McNeal said.

"No there is no need to panic about it," Zimmer-Shepherd said.  "On the other hand if you see the signs of ground that is starting to slough and subside you do need to pay attention to it."

South Georgia sinkholes open up after most major rain or flood events, and it's just natural to know we will see more of them soon.

McNeal, who is one of the top engineering experts in this area dealing with sinkholes, says there are Geo-physical tests that can be done on sites to see if it's possible sinkholes could form there, but he says there is absolutely no fool proof scientific way to know when or where a sinkhole could appear.

Sinkholes can be filled in or repaired.  Most often the sinkhole is filled with dirt or rock. If it's too big or someone wants to build on top of a sinkhole it can be filled with concrete or grouted.

Sherwood Baptist Church found an easy and pretty way to handle two large sinkholes that opened at their Legacy Park. Instead of filling them in, park officials dug out around the sinkholes to form one large hole which they filled with water to create a pond.

They're watching other areas where sinkholes could opening up and marked them to keep people away from them.

"The Lord knew that and created it and formed it all, so we think we are in a good shape right now.  And we will just have to cross that bridge when we come to it," Said Sherwood Sports & Recreation Minister Jay Flint.

Church officials say they'll simply wait and see if more sinkholes fall in.

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