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Another sinkhole


Fri, Apr 26th, 2013
Posted in Fountain Agriculture

The most recent sinkhole developing outside of Fountain, Minn., the “Sinkhole Capital of the World.” Photo by Barb Jeffers

As most passers-by on Highway 52, just North of Fountain, Minn., have noticed in recent days a fairly large sinkhole has opened up about a quarter mile outside of town on the West side of the road. Being conspicuously placed along the roadside it has many travelers turning their heads on their way to and from work or running errands. The sinkhole has a diameter of approximately 15 feet at this time, and is several feet deep.

Schwarz Farms of Fountain rents the land and Jason Schwarz stated that “a sinkhole opened up there a couple years ago” but that one was “a quarter of the size” of the one that has now appeared. Jason stated that when it happened in the past they have “filled it in” but they “may have to re-vamp it a little” this time because of the way the water runs off in that spot.

The owner of the property is Paul Walsh of Rochester, Minn. When Mr. Walsh was contacted for a comment on the newly formed sinkhole he was unaware of the situation and stated that “there has been a sinkhole there for years” but he did not know it had opened up again and was larger in size than in the past. Mr. Walsh stated that he would “have to get down there and look at it” and see it for himself.

Sinkholes are common in this area due to the karst topography, which according to the website for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, www.dnr.state.mn.us, “is surface developed by solution and subsidence into underground drainage, sinkholes, and caves” such as we have here in southeastern Minnesota. The website also explains “the cavernous tunnel systems in Fillmore and Olmsted counties” and how they were formed.

National Geographic describes sinkholes in a way that is easy to understand on its website, http://education.nationalgeographic.com, where it states:

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground that forms when water dissolves surface rock. Often, this surface rock is limestone, which is easily eroded, or worn away, by the movement of water.

In a landscape where limestone sits underneath the soil, water from rainfall collects in cracks in the stone. These cracks are called joints. Slowly, as the limestone dissolves and is carried away, the joints widen until the ground above them becomes unstable and collapses. The collapse often happens very suddenly and without very much warning. Water collects in these collapsed sections, forming sinkholes.

Sinkholes also form when the roofs of caves collapse. Sinkholes are often funnel-shaped, with the wide end open at the surface and the narrow end at the bottom of the pool.

Horror stories of sinkholes swallowing up people, homes, cars, and anything else that happens to be above them seem to be occurring more often. Perhaps it seems this way because of social media and news being instantly streamed around the world but reports of people falling into sinkholes never to be seen again are none the less shocking.

On March 1, 2013, in Seffner, Florida, a man identified as Jeffrey Bush died when a sinkhole opened up underneath his home while he was lying in bed. The man, his bed, and several other items disappeared into the large sinkhole that had occurred and gave way.

In the city of Shenzhen, China on March 27, 2013 a man was killed when a sinkhole opened up at a construction site. NBC News reported that day on Behind the Wall on NBC.com, (www.behindthewall.nbcnews.com), which reports on events in China, that “the sinkhole, reportedly 16.5 feet in diameter and four-floors deep, swallowed up a 25-year-old security guard working in the tower. Rescue workers were able to reach the guard and take him to a nearby hospital, but he died soon after.”

In Chicago, IL on April 18, 2013 three cars fell into a sinkhole. As reported on the website for all things sinkhole related, www.thesinkhole.org., one person was hospitalized as a result. The website reported that “witnesses said the hole opened up around 5am at 9600 South Houston Avenue, quickly growing from about 20 feet to about 40 feet” giving the persons involved no time to react and avoid falling into the sinkhole.

These occurrences are just a few of many reports of sinkholes causing damage and even death around the world. Which would certainly cause a person to look twice when a sinkhole appears in Fillmore County especially when that sinkhole is located in Fountain, Minn. which is the “Sinkhole Capital of the World.”

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