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Kansas sinkhole disaster--just a matter of time?

March 04, 2013|by Jim Grawe | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.) — In 2009, residents of a Hutchinson neighborhood worried their homes might be swallowed up by large sinkholes.  The sinkholes were caused by years of underground salt mining.

The mining company bought out all 32 homes affected, so nobody will be killed by a sinkhole there like in Florida.  But sinkholes are common across Kansas.  There's one beneath the county road leading into Clearwater from the north.

"Right here, the actual ground was coming down and they had some tractors out here pushing it back and forth," nearby resident Josh Tinkler says.  "The road came down, so they blocked it off for a few weeks."

In this case, it's underground salt deposits naturally dissolving that have caused the ground to give way.  The sinkhole has affected the contour of the road, and some people worry about the future of nearby homes.  Sedgwick County is awaiting results of geological testing.

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Meanwhile, Butler County Emergency Management director Jim Schmidt says the Florida sinkhole disaster caught his attention.

"When you see this happen you start to go back and think, okay, if that were to happen here, what would we do?" Schmidt says.

As the Florida case shows, sinkholes can be unpredictable.  Experts don't expect a disaster like that in Kansas.  But then again, Florida experts didn't expect it either.

Over the weekend a highway in Southeast Kansas closed after a sinkhole developed near Galena.  Geologists are investigating there as well.

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