A sinkhole, also known as a sink, shake hole, swallow hole, swallet, doline or cenote, is a natural depression or hole in the Earth’s surface caused by karst processes — the chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks or overburden under the surface.
Natural sinkholes are most commonly found in Florida in addition to Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Natural sinkholes occur normally as a result of a prolonged period of heavy rainfall or drought where the soils below are susceptible to the adverse reactions of the same conditions and cavities under the surface can be exposed. Some soils are more susceptible to collapse than others based on their effect or adverse effect to heavy rainfall and/or drought conditions.
In the state of Florida there are many examples of sinkholes of every size, many of which have been caused by urbanization and/or over usage of water sources. Sinkholes start off as ground surface depressions, resulting from subterranean voids as it weakens the support of the overlying earth. The sinkhole is fully formed when the overlying earth collapses.
Sinkholes may vary in size from 1 to 600 meters (3.3 to 2,000 ft) both in diameter and depth, and vary in form from soil-lined bowls to bedrock-edged chasms. Sinkholes may be formed gradually or suddenly, leading to gradual collapse or catastrophic collapse of the ground and surrounding structures. Examples of known/named sinkholes in Florida include the Devil’s Hole in Hawthorne, Alapaha River in Jennings, Kingsley Lake, Starke, and Eagle’s Nest in Weekie Wachee.