It's hard to imagine anything more unexpected or terrifying. When you are lying in bed and the earth suddenly opens up beneath your house and swallows you up, I guess you were just meant to go. Unbelievable? Yes. But it happened to 36-year-old Jeff Bush in a Tampa suburb last Friday. And it could happen to someone near you.
I happen to live in the area of southern St. Clair County Illinois known as The Sinkhole Plain. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources knows all about it. And it has documented the phenomenon in this interesting little report. As I drive around the area where I live there are sinkholes everywhere. It's called karst terrain, and it's easy to see that's it's different than most of the land in southern Illinois and Missouri. Most of the sinkholes have been stable for hundreds of years, according to a geologist I ran into studying a creek near my home a few years ago. He said most of the sinkholes were formed back in the day when the Mississippi River was carving it's way through the middle of the continent and sucking all sorts of soil and rock downstream with it. The holes on top of the nearby limestone bluffs collapsed in places creating the sinkholes.
They say at any time the next big earthquake could come along and shake everything around the holes loose to the point where homes, and all sorts of nearby material could be pulled into one of these surface weaknesses and be lost into an underground cave or river.
No, I don't think about it very much. But it's definitely possible. And if you're going to get struck by lightning...or sucked up in a tornado...or get buried in a sinkhole, I figure there's not much you can do about it and your time has just expired. Not many of us go out on our own terms anyway. So if my wife chooses to worry about such things, that's her choice. I think I won't.