A massive sinkhole that opened up overnight in Wallace County, Kan., last week, is continuing to expand, confounding residents who call its sudden appearance inexplicable and miraculous. Officials say they have been unable to determine what caused the sinkhole, which currently measures 200 feet wide and 90 feet deep, but they believe it was an act of God.
According to KWCH 12, the hole opened up several nights ago in Wallace County, a rural area in western Kansas about 10 miles north of Sharon Springs. Resident Dalton Hoss told the news station that he awoke the next morning and received a phone call from his brother, telling him that a sinkhole had swallowed up a large portion of his pasture.
“My brother found it,” Hoss said. “He called me up and his voice was quaking and he said, 'You'll never believe what I just saw.’”
The natural phenomenon has caused a stir throughout the town of roughly 1,500, drawing daily visitors who stop by the pit to ogle and take photographs. Some intrepid tourists have even climbed down into the bottom to get a better look.
"I'd seen pictures and I knew it was deep, but I didn't think it was this deep,” Gavin Mote, a graduate of Wallace County High, said. “You get out here and you get a whole different perspective on how deep it is.”
Although it has steadily become a local tourist attraction, officials warn that the sinkhole likely hasn’t finished expanding. Deep cracks have appeared around the periphery, prompting concern that it may swallow nearby buildings.
Sinkholes can occur naturally or as a result of pollution, as in the recent case of a 15-acre-wide sinkhole that appeared in southern Louisiana, likely due to a collapsed salt dome. They are most prevalent in areas with karst terrain, a term geologists use for land with underlying soluble rocks or groundwater, like Florida. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 20 percent of the United States’ topography is predisposed to sinkholes.
But while residents and officials continue to investigate the hole’s source, some in town are convinced that it defies all logical explanation.
"Man had nothing to do with this,” Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend said. “This is a God thing. There's no oil well around here, there are no irrigation wells anywhere near. This is something that just happened.”