Saddleback may experience its first sinkhole this year

Ken Kausler/ Journalism department intern

After recent sinkhole activity in south Orange County, one may possibly open on campus, here’s what students should look out for.

According to the United States Geological Survey, a sinkhole is defined as “…a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. Basically, this means that when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface.”

Recently, two sinkholes have opened up in southern Orange County. One in La Habra and one in Dana Point. Also, Capistrano Beach is at risk of erosion damage due to the recent rainy weather.

According to Orange County Water Quality and Water Resources, in 2018 Orange County received 2.79 inches of rain in the first three months of the year, but this year we are already at over 11.81 inches and March is not even halfway over.

Saddleback College’s buildings were built on hills and in valleys and after the rainiest winter California has had in years, Saddleback has many flooded drains and leaks. The LRC has already been closed because of issues involving the rain this semester.

This campus is susceptible to sinkholes. Sinkholes can be caused three different ways. The most common way, which caused both the sinkholes in La Habra and Dana Point can possibly happen at Saddleback.

After heavy rains, especially in areas with loose rock or sand foundations, like Saddleback College’s campus. Water pipes are filled with way more water than usual and they can collapse, causing a sinkhole. This is the type of sinkhole that threatens the college campus due to the water main already having issues late last year.

The second way is trauma to the floor from massive amounts of water or weight which caused the Dana Point sinkhole. This is common when a large rush of water flows downhill at rapid speeds during a rainstorm. The third way a sinkhole can occur is by rapid erosion to a certain area which is currently happening at Capistrano Beach in Dana Point.

Recent flash flood warnings in our area have sparked the conversation about what to do in a situation if a sinkhole is opening. It is possible to be prepared if a sinkhole begins to open, but that situation protocol is not taught in local schools because California has not gotten enough rain to cause a sinkhole, until this year.

Sinkholes are especially common near coasts. Saddleback is less than seven miles from the beach where sinkholes have already begun opening due to the abundance of precipitation.

The forecast says it will rain on and off in the next few weeks. Because the LRC already experiencing flooding issues, Saddleback’s attendees should be worried about the possibility of a sinkhole. The increase in rain has already begun overfilling the drain pipes around campus.

It is expected to rain in southern California at least twice a week until April. This is why students should be alert and prepared if a sinkhole opens on campus.

According to ABC News, signs of a sinkhole include: “Fresh cracks in the foundations of houses and buildings, cracks in interior walls, cracks in the ground outside, depressions in the ground, trees or fence posts that tilt or fall, doors or windows become difficult to open or close, and the rapid appearance of a hole in the ground.”

If you spot any of these warning signs, it is best to warn others around you and move to a safer location away from any buildings.

This winter’s rainy weather not only provides southern Californians with a reason to actually wear a sweatshirt in March like the rest of the country, but to look out for sinkholes for the first time in their lives.