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About That Mar-a-Lago Sinkhole…


When news broke last week that a sinkhole formed at Donald Trump’s resort and weekend White House known as Mar-a-Lago, the press and social media had a field day. The headline in the Washington Post declared, “Sinkhole forms in front of Mar-a-Lago; metaphors pour in.” Twitter went full snark. Even Cher got into the laughfest.Many who know me as a Florida sinkhole expert forwarded several articles about the collapse. By all reports, the sinkhole was a small 4-foot square collapse feature.But was it really a sinkhole?When I heard the news, I was highly skeptical.A sinkhole is a collapse of a void space that forms from the solution of soluble rock—usually limestone.In Florida, most of the limestone that contains void spaces large enough to cause a sinkhole the size of the one at Mar-a-Lago is found near the surface in central Florida near Tampa and Orlando. Some large sinkholes in this area have caused tremendous property damage and loss of life.But Mar-a-Lago? According to state geologic maps of Palm Beach County, the site is underlain by the Anastasia formation, a geologic unit consisting of a mix of late Pleistocene sands and a type of limestone called coquina—a weakly cemented rock made of shells. While sinkholes can form in the formation, they are not at all a common occurrence.So if it wasn’t a sinkhole, what was it?The Palm Beach Daily News is reporting that it was a collapsed stormwater pipe and not a sinkhole—at least not a geologic sinkhole.In recent years, we have taken to using the term sinkhole for any collapse feature that suddenly forms on the surface of the earth

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About That Mar-a-Lago Sinkhole…

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