Sinkhole opens up in Washington and jaded humor emerges

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:31pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington is used to being the brunt of jokes, particularly those centered around the action, or lack of it, on Capitol Hill.

But on Tuesday, the focus moved to the Adams Morgan neighborhood, where some saw a symbol of Washington - a gaping sinkhole in the middle of a bustling sidewalk.

Unlike the fatal sinkhole that swallowed a man as he slept in his Seffner, Florida, home on February 28, or the one a golfer fell into on an Illinois fairway earlier this month, the Washington sinkhole is more on the order of a large pothole. Surrounded by yellow tape, it is about a yard (meter) square, as deep as 10 feetand sits a few miles from the White House, another frequent source of late-night television humor.

But the sinkhole quickly took on larger proportions as chatter erupted on social media.

"A sinkhole has opened in Washington D.C. Last to push their congressman in is a rotten egg," tweeted Bill O'Keefe.

"25 ft deep sinkhole in DC today and it's expanding. Seems like I got out at the right time. It was nice knowing you, Washington," tweeted T.C. Sottek.

Metropolitan Police were dispatched to the sinkhole site, and local residents said the problem might be due to a new sewer that had just been installed.

"If that is the case, it would be typical of this kind of sinkhole collapse," said Jim Kaufmann, a research physical scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sinkholes are not uncommon, Kaufman said, because about 20 percent of the United States sits atop what is known as karst terrain, regions where rock below the surface can be naturally dissolved by groundwater. Hot areas for sinkholes are Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

In a city like Washington, they can be traced to something as innocuous as a leaking pipe that erodes sediment below the surface, Kaufmann said by phone from Rolla, Missouri. They also are common after long dry spells followed by rainy periods.

Even Kaufmann initially saw the humor in Washington's encounter with the phenomenon.

"It's not on Capitol Hill, is it?," he asked.

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson)

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Comments (4)
Don_in_Odessa wrote:
Ha! Ha! It had to happen ya’ know? With all the underground dug out for the low lifes to have places to jump into when the rocks and pitchforks come out, I’m only surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.

Mar 13, 2013 5:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Why is the latest distraction sinkholes. Two weeks ago people were being gunned down daily, Chicago was the new L.A., and asteroids were 10 feet from colliding with the Earth. Who’s in charge of distractions?

Mar 13, 2013 9:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
1942.bill wrote:
A few more well-placed sinkholes in Washington might be just what is needed to start the country on the real road to recovery.

Mar 13, 2013 9:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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