What to do if you Suspect a Sinkhole

Jan 7, 2020

Dr. Doug Gouzie and graduate student Jordan Vega explore Smallin Civil War Cave.

Unimaginable and devastating. Those are words you might use to describe a sinkhole.

Dr. Doug Gouzie, geology professor at Missouri State University, explains why sinkholes are more common in Missouri than many other places in the world.

"About 60% of the rock underneath Missouri is limestone, or very closely related, dissolvable rock. About 20% of the country is that way, but that means only 20% of the country, including Missouri, has this kind of rock," Gouzie said. 

Gouzie studies land formations, like sinkholes, and how water forms them. Along with his graduate students, Gouzie spends many hours in caves across Missouri and on stream banks collecting water and sediment. Ultimately, he wants to predict the next sinkhole site.

"Over time a little bit of soil keeps washing down through a crack in the rock underground, and that gives you sort of a bowl shape or a saucer shape spot in your yard. That's probably the most common thing," he said. "Homeowners or even just a residents should not keep water running in that same place if they can - divert their drainage or their gutters and downspouts."

Gouzie reminds us that Fantastic Caverns wasn’t formed in a lifetime, but in a couple million years.

"It's not like you're watching the soil wash away from your yard down into a cave, or it's not even like a cave like Fantastic Caverns is forming this week underneath your house. It's that something has been going on for hundreds of thousands to millions of years, and opening those things up and carrying the soil away that filled those openings," he said.

Read his story on Mind's Eye