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What causes sinkholes: Many sinkholes form when acidic rainwater dissolves limestone or similar rock beneath the soil or washes away small dirt particles under the ground. This starts to create a small depression that funnels in more water, eventually leaving a large void that collapses when it's no longer able to support the weight of what's above, whether that be an open field, a road or a house. These are called "cover-collapse sinkholes."
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Where they happen: Sinkholes are particularly common in Florida, which rests on a nearly unbroken bed of limestone, according to the Florida Sinkhole Research Institute. Central Florida, including the Tampa area, is particularly known for sinkholes. Nationwide, about 20 percent of the country has the type of "karst terrain" that has rocks the can disoolve and create sinkholes. Places that frequently see sinkholes include Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, the U.S. Geological Survey says.
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Sinkhole results: Not all sinkholes collapse dramatically. Some merely cause the ground above to sag, or result in small ponds or saltwater marshes, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says. They can range from a few feet to several acres wide and 1 to more than 100 feet deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
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Sinkhole dangers: Deaths and injuries from sinkholes are rare, but certainly not unheard of. For instance, in 2012, a 15-year-old girl died when her family's car fell into a Utah sinkhole, according to media accounts. In March 2013, Jeff Bush was killed when a sinkhole suddenly collapsed under his bedroom in Hillsborough County, Fla.