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Why Are Sinkholes Increasing in California?

California is home to sunny skies, massive waves, and miles of pristine beaches. But it’s also home to several natural disaster risks, from earthquakes to floods and, increasingly, sinkholes. No one wants to be involved in something as scary as a natural disaster, but it’s not an event we can easily plan for. But, with sinkholes, there are some very early warning signs that one’s about to occur. Understanding these warning signs and the reasons why sinkholes are increasing in California can help you prepare as best you can.

Defining a Sinkhole

California’s landscape is not naturally prone to sinkholes because most of the land has adequate groundwater drainage. Unfortunately, man-induced sinkholes are becoming more common with all the development and land alterations. Sinkholes occur when groundwater has nowhere to go except into the subground, taking with it everything above the subground, including the soil and anything on top of the soil.

This means if your house is built on land that does not have adequate groundwater drainage, it’s possible that the water will move into the subground and pull the land your house is on and your house into a hole. Essentially, the removal of the groundwater below your house causes a void that can no longer support anything on top of it, causing a hole to open up. Gravity takes care of the rest.

Warning Signs of an Impending Sinkhole

Sometimes, a sinkhole will appear without any warning at all. This is particularly true in times of heavy rain and extreme drought, both of which occur fairly frequently in California. However, there are times when sinkholes do have warning signs that can help you predict whether or not a specific parcel of land is at risk. Look for:

What to Do If You Suspect a Sinkhole?

If you’ve noticed any of these signs of a sinkhole on or around your property, and your property is in immediate danger, evacuate your home and call 911. If you are not in immediate danger, rope off the area and contact your homeowner’s insurance company right away. They will send out an adjuster who will assess the situation and determine whether or not to get an engineer involved.


Sinkholes don’t immediately come to mind when you hear the term “natural disaster.” Still, the consequences of a sinkhole can be just as catastrophic as any other disaster you’d expect in California. So be aware of the dangers and always look out for signs that a sinkhole might develop.

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