The effects of Hurricane Irma

All across Florida, the ground is giving way as gaping holes are opening in backyards, homes and apartments, schoolyards, and roadways. The reason? Sinkholes are opening under these buildings caused in part by the extra water from Hurricane Irma.

Like hurricanes, sinkholes evolve when rock is faced with water; water dissolves rock, so when hurricanes bring more water, more sinkholes present themselves. Then, when you introduce the stress on the earth associated with hurricanes, sinkholes are not far behind.

How Irma is causing sinkholes

Irma’s soaking, torrential rains have made the ground so heavy that in some places it’s collapsing into underground voids causing sinkholes. Heavy rains and flooding can often accelerate the phenomenon that is sinkhole activity, as it increases how much water is being introduced to the earth’s rock.

Sinkholes are natural occurrences caused by the erosion of bedrock over time, however the chances of a sinkhole occurring are greatly increased by the presence of a hurricane. Significant rainfall is a key ingredient to causing a sinkhole to open because the water becomes acidic once it is underground and, without proper drainage, can pool in sinkholes.

This is oftentimes the result of changes in the hydro-static pressure caused by rising water and tides.

Florida residents see an increase in sinkholes

We have already received multiple inquiries from property owners and managers who located stress to retaining walls and foundations, especially where the water withdrew before the storm surged back.

In less than two weeks, there have been at least eight Florida communities affected by sinkholes likely due to Hurricane Irma, usually involving cracking in walls, sidewalks, and ceilings.

Insurers in the Sunshine State processed close to 25,000 claims for sinkhole damage over the course of four years, according to CNN.

Do you have a sinkhole on your property?

Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the country. However, in excess of 20 percent of the country is above karst terrain (a combination of caves, underground channels, and a rough and bumpy ground surface), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Other states where sinkholes are common include Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

If you are dealing with an insurance claim, the deductible for a sinkhole loss is almost always less than that of a hurricane. As such, if the cause is sinkhole loss and not hurricane, all of your benefits change. Consequently, knowing to look for both storm and sinkhole damage can save you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Property owners and property management companies can find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to dealing with their insurance company over the damage caused by sinkhole activity. Insurance companies frequently deny coverage, delay claims, or pay a fraction of the cost of damage to their policyholders when faced with a sinkhole event.

A knowledgeable and experienced sinkhole attorney can help assist you with all stages of sinkhole claims. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.

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