Recent rains in the Washington, D.C., region have developed a sinkhole in the grassy North Lawn of the White House.
Sinkholes are scary phenomena. For years, stories of whole houses being suddenly swallowed up — with people inside them — have instilled fear in the young and old alike. (I always tell my daughter, “If something so crazy like a sinkhole swallows you up, then it was obviously your time to go!”).
While they’re more frequent in places like Florida or Texas, where the earth consists of limestone and underground cavities are prone to form, sinkholes in Washington, D.C., generally only occur after periods of heavy rain.
The White House sinkhole, located just a few feet from the briefing room entrance, was first noticed this past weekend after heavy rain pummeled the D.C. region for nearly a week. And according to witnesses, the hole’s been getting larger by the day.
So is the White House doomed to be swallowed up? Experts say no.
“We do not believe it poses any risk to the White House or is representative of a larger problem,” National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said in a statement.
For one thing, the specific terrain where the White House was built consists of a sandy clay material.
Likely, the sinkhole is the result of lawn construction in recent years or a possible leak in the in-ground irrigation system.
“It could be some construction debris that was not very highly compacted and has now begun to settle and fill in with soil around it, but it looks like it’d be more related to man-made activities than to natural causes,” Terry West, a Purdue University professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences and civil engineering, told CNN.
In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that since the massive construction project that the Truman administration performed on the White House between 1948 and 1952, a large bunker complex has existed deep within the property. In 2010, the Obama administration dug up a section of the North Lawn and upgraded the air conditioning and mechanical systems, though the number of steel beams and amount of concrete that was used raised questions as to whether an expanded, upgraded secret bunker was actually being built.
Regardless of what’s actually under the White House North Lawn, when you think about all the construction to the area, a little disturbance in the grass after some heavy rainfall seems about right.
Of course, as with anything remotely politically related, the internet is having its fun with the idea of a sinkhole on the White House lawn. We’re sure you can use your imagination, but if not, just do a quick search for “sinkhole” on Twitter, and you’ll see what we mean!
What’s the most unlikely place you’ve seen a sinkhole? Please leave a comment below!