Expert Talks About Possiblity of Sinkholes in South Florida

It may be a new fear for Floridians: falling victim to a sinkhole.

For people living in South Florida, there is good news. University of Miami research scientist Dr. Shimon Wdowinski said residents don't have to worry.

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"We won't completely rule it out, but it's not very likely to happen over here," he said.

Near Tampa, a man was buried alive when a sinkhole opened up beneath his bedroom. Even though this is something rarely heard of, it has South Floridians asking questions. But experts say while sinkholes are common in Florida, they are not common in Broward or Miami-Dade.

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A sinkhole happens when limestone erodes and falls, but here in South Florida the geology is different. Instead of limestone being many feet below ground, here it's closer to the top, and it's not as old. So a lot of things haven't affected it , like weight on top or water underground.

There have been reports of very small sinkholes in South Florida. There was one near Bal Harbour in 2009 and one in 2011, which turned into a home owners insurance nightmare for one couple.

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A 2008 map from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology shows just one small sinkhole in Miami-Dade County and five small ones in Broward County.

"When it happens, it's low subsidence into the sinkhole,"Wdowinski said. "It's not a sudden collapse."

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