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Sinkholes: Should Butte residents be concerned?

By Donovan Hill, KTVM Reporter, dhill@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 01 2013 03:23:10 PM MST
Updated On: Mar 01 2013 08:59:06 PM MST

The town of Butte is notorious for endless shafts underground, and sinkholes because of its rich mining history.

BUTTE, Mont. -

Emergency crews near Tampa, Florida, are scratching their heads after a giant sinkhole killed a man and swallowed most of his bedroom while he was sleeping. Now searches for sinkholes are sweeping online search engines since the incident occurred.

The town of Butte is notorious for endless shafts underground and sinkholes due to its rich mining history.

According to sinkholegroup.com Mother Nature can cause a sinkhole of any size to pop up anywhere at any given time.

"It is something that's becoming a bit of a concern," said Kathleen Weber, a Butte resident.

But what's the possibility of a southwest Montana sinkhole opening up with the same magnitude and force as one did in Florida?

Experts tell NBC Montana the chances are slim even with sinkholes being common in Silver Bow County, but they typically only occur around old mining yards.

Even with the probability being low, locals tell NBC Montana just the possibility of a sinkhole happening in their backyard is terrifying.

"It scares me a lot because I’ve got a son and I don't want him falling in and I don't want our place to fall in because it would be pretty traumatic, it really would," said Kelly Weber, a Butte resident.

An expert in geology says people in southwest Montana have other geographical hazards that have a higher chance of occurring before sinkholes.

"I know they're not in the top five of hazards identified in the county," said Colleen Elliott, a research geologist at Montana Tech.

City officials warn not to let your guard down, and to watch for any signs of sinking or slumping ground around your home.

 If you notice any suspicious signs that may relate to the possibility of a sinkhole opening up call the county immediately at (406) 497-6257.