Hillsborough County sits on "Sinkhole Alley" - FOX 13 News

Hillsborough County sits on "Sinkhole Alley"

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A few years ago, more than 140 sinkholes opened in eastern Hillsborough County after growers pumped groundwater to protect their crops for eleven straight nights during a unusually long deep freeze.

Then there was an unforgettable incident in Lakeland: a sinkhole opened up at the bottom of Scott Lake. Water and wildlife spiraled downward and the lake largely disappeared.

The layer of limestone underneath Florida is filled with holes, like swiss cheese. When the ground water level drops, and it rains, the water washes out the sand and dirt from the holes and the limestone can collapse.

Even too much rain can cause a sinkhole. A deluge can cause so much sand to move through the limestone, it can cause pressure on the rock, which can weaken it.

Although sinkholes can happen anytime, in this area, May seems to be the most troublesome.

"Our lawns need water, agriculture may be watering, particularly row crops, and so we tend to pump more ground water in May," Mark Stewart, a geologist at the University of South Florida, told FOX 13.

Tampa to Orlando, all along the I-4 corridor, is known as "sinkhole alley," because so many pop up there. When you go south of Brandon, the possibility of sinkholes quickly decreases. Stewart says that's because there is a thick layer of clay in the soil that prevents the water from leaching through.

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