The current status of mapping karst areas and availability of public sinkhole-risk resources in karst terrains of the United States
Subsidence from sinkhole collapse is a common occurrence in areas underlain by water-soluble rocks such as carbonate and evaporite rocks, typical of karst terrain. Almost all 50 States within the United States (excluding Delaware and Rhode Island) have karst areas, with sinkhole damage highest in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. A conservative estimate of losses to all types of ground subsidence was 125 million per year in 1997. This estimate may now be low, as review of cost reports from the last 15 years indicates that the cost of karst collapses in the United States averages more than 300 million per year. Knowing when a catastrophic event will occur is not possible; however, understanding where such occurrences are likely is possible. The US Geological Survey has developed and maintains national-scale maps of karst areas and areas prone to sinkhole formation. Several States provide additional resources for their citizens; Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania maintain databases of sinkholes or karst features, with Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio providing sinkhole reporting mechanisms for the public.