Experts say sinkholes are not uncommon in Alabama - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Experts say sinkholes are not uncommon in Alabama

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LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) -

Roots are all that's left of a tree that once stood high above Jerome Hamby's yard off Lee Road 704 in Opelika. Wednesday afternoon, the earth gave out and formed this massive hole on his property.

[RELATED: Homeowner narrowly escapes sinkhole that swallows tree]

"If I was out there cutting the grass, I'd probably be out there with the tree," says Hamby.

Despite popular belief, sinkholes are not unusual in Alabama and they can come in all sizes.

"There are major land areas in Alabama that have the same issues because they contact the underground geology that's water soluble and when some of that gets dissolved it leave large holes of water. Sinkholes are very common," explains Dr. James. Hairston,-, AU Professor Emeritus/ Retired  and ACES Water Program Coordinator.

Sinkholes are frequently associated with urban development in karst landscapes.

Mining or quarrying and high water withdrawal can lead to some types of sinkholes and is what Hairston believes happened yesterday in Opelika.

A quarry is in operation just down the street from Hamby's property.

"They call it a cone of depression. The deeper the sinkhole gets, you have a cone forming away from the line quarry where the water starts dropping," says Hairton.

Officials from the Opelika quarry taped off the newly formed sinkhole Thursday and removed the tree.

In 2007, Lee County sued and reached a settlement with the then owners of the rock quarry, where the quarry will pay for and repair any sinkhole related damages in a given area on public and private property.

"They say they're going to shut this thing down in August and they tell me then that it should do away with the sinkholes in this community," says Hamby.

"You have that potential anywhere close to a quarry," explains Hairton.

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