Jun 19, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

Parts of Texas Disappearing into Sinkholes

Those Texas residents clamoring for their state to secede may not have to wait for the governor to make a declaration or the citizens take a vote because parts of the Lone Star State are already slipping away. Unfortunately, they’re not going in the preferred direction. The west Texas towns of Kermit and Wink (isn’t that a country duo?) are getting nervous as two giant sinkholes are now approaching the ‘enormous’ category and threatening to suck them into the netherworld under the state (which is probably connected to Oklahoma).

The sinkholes are cleverly referred to as Wink Sink No. 1 and Wink Sink No. 2 and are the result of what made Texas famous … oil. Major oil production stopped in the area 60 years ago, leaving underground cavities that are causing the surface to collapse. This is nothing new in the oil business, but these two holes are unusual because they started out big and are getting bigger fast. West Sink No. 1 opened in 1980 and is 361 feet across, while West Sink No. 2 appeared in 2002 and is already is 900 feet in diameter. In Texas measurements, that’s 1.6 football fields and 3 football fields, respectively.

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Wink Sink No. 2 is the one in the foreground

According to a new study in the journal Remote Sensing, geologists at Southern Methodist University are so concerned about the instability of the Wink Holes that they commissioned a satellite to take overhead pictures using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) to detect changes that aren't visible at ground level.

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Satellite radar images and measurements of the current sinkholes. The dark black areas indicate a possible new one.

The news from InSAR was worse than expected. The original sinkholes caused by the oil extraction increased the area’s groundwater, which then seeped into a massive underground salt deposit, which is the new and more dangerous reason why the ground near the sinkholes is sinking as well …and at a faster rate than before. No.1 is sinking at a rate of 1.6 inches (4 cm) per year and a spot just .7 miles (1.1 km) from West Sink No. 2 is dropping over 5 inches (13 cm) annually.

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Satellite image shows how close No. 1 is to production installations

This is bad news for the residents of nearby Kermit and Wink, says SMU research scientist and study co-author Jin-Woo Kim.

This area is heavily populated with oil and gas production equipment and installations, hazardous liquid pipelines, as well as two communities. A sinkhole collapse can be severe under natural conditions, but it could be catastrophic in urban settings or at oil/gas exploration facilities.

Nothing can stop Wink Sink No. 1 and Wink Sink No. 2 from swallowing more of Texas, including Kermit and Wink, but at least satellite images can give residents some advance warning.

The worst catastrophe would be if these Texans got pulled in and found out the holes lead to … California!

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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