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Sinkhole nightmare

What must it be like to live in a place where the ground can suddenly open up and swallow you whole?

That’s what folks in some parts of Florida are dealing with, particularly in the wake of the horrific fate of a man whose bedroom suddenly collapsed a few weeks ago — his body has never been found.

Now another pit has appeared, this time in the side yard of a duplex, and the two families who live there are being forced to find somewhere else to live.

Here in New England, our landscape is underpinned by solid granite, rock that is so old it predates the formation of North America itself. Layers of sandstone and volcanic basalt and debris left by retreating glaciers cover much of it, but it’s as tough and dependable as a Yankee farmer.

True, it is full of the rocks that can make agriculture a tedious chore, but it never fails to support us.

But in Florida and some other parts of the Southeast, limestone layers form the basis for much of the landscape, and flowing water can erode the very earth itself. That means caves and sinkholes — places where the roof of a cave can suddenly fail and open up a seemingly bottomless pit.

Such a pit killed 37-year-old Jeffery Bush as he rested in the false security of his home.

Out west, of course, the ground can also betray residents of the coastal states, suddenly moving and shaking and knocking down homes and bridges as the North American tectonic plates move sideways, grinding against the Pacific plate and creating earthquakes.

We could philosophize about the differences between the character of New England and of South Florida and California, and draw parallels ... but we won’t.

We’ll just content ourselves by expressing gratitude that we live in a place where you can count on the ground staying put beneath your feet.

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