Tallahassee, Florida -- The sudden formation of a sinkhole near Disney World, which swallowed part of a hotel building, gives new urgency to a plan to map the entire state of Florida showing exactly where sinkholes are most likely to open up.
The federal government is giving Florida $1 million to find out which areas are most vulnerable to sinkholes.
The Florida Geological Survey based at Florida State University will start mapping the state this fall. The work is expected to take three years.
Geologist Clint Kromhout says there are several givens about Florida: sunshine, hurricanes and sinkholes.
The entire state of Florida sits on top of several thousand feet of the dissolvable rock limestone.
When rain filters down into the limestone, it creates a weak acid that eats away at the rock. Over time, that process can create large underground cavities that can collapse and cause sinkholes.
Kromhout says you can look for signs of sinkholes around your home or business: does the foundation have cracks? Are doors or windows hard to open? Are there any circular rings on the ground?
"Does water pool in your yard at all and if it does pool in your yard does it go down in one specific spot and if that water is pooling in that spot, do you notice that over time that maybe that location has started to gather a depression. And if you start to see a depression that might be the beginning signs of a possible sinkhole."
This sinkhole-mapping project is the result of Tropical Storm Debby, which dumped record amounts of rain in some areas of Florida and caused sinkholes last year.
Kromhout says once the sinkhole map is finished, it will help make Floridians safer.
"The idea is to hopefully give people some ideas of where they might be able to move or build their structures to make their lives safer in Florida. The whole idea is to make it a safer place for all of us."