Texas sinkholesTexas sinkholes are growing!

A couple of giant sinkholes in the West Texas oil patch are apparently expanding, and might eventually converge into one gigantic hole.

The sinkholes are about a mile apart and sit between Wink and Kermit off I-20 west of Midland-Odessa. They were caused by lots of oil and gas extraction, which peaked from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s, according to researchers at Southern Methodist University.

Satellite radar images indicate that the giant sinkholes are expanding and that new ones are forming “at an alarming rate” as nearby subsidence occurs, they report in the scientific journal Remote Sensing. One is 361 feet across, about the size of a football field; the other is larger, 670 to 900 feet across.

“A collapse could be catastrophic,” said geophysicist Jin-Woo Kim, who leads the SMU geophysical team reporting the findings.

In addition to Wink and Kermit (combined pop. about 7,000), there’s lots of oil and gas production equipment and installations and hazardous liquid pipelines in the area, Kim said in the report. The fresh water injected underground in the extraction process “can dissolve the interbedded salt layers and accelerate the sinkhole collapse.”

There’s something not too dissimilar happening in Daisetta, east of Houston.

Officials have fenced off the area around the sinkholes between Wink and Kermit and they’ll be monitored, but residents don’t appear to be worried about them.

“They’re a ways off from the highway; if nobody mentions it, then nobody is interested in it,” Kermit City Manager Gloria Saenz told the New York Daily News.

A preacher of the Apocalypse from Indiana had a decidedly different take, exclaiming on YouTube: “Here’s my concern. It’s like hell is being enlarged, and that without measure.”

Two sinkholes in Texas are growing more unstable, which could lead to the creation of more sinkholes - or one giant sinkhole. Above, a view of the second sinkhole, located in Kermit, Texas

Two sinkholes in Texas are growing more unstable, which could lead to the creation of more sinkholes – or one giant sinkhole. Above, a view of the second sinkhole, located in Kermit, Texas

Original Texas sinkholes story below:

Scientists have issued a grave warning to a small Texas community home to two growing sinkholes.

Geologists at Southern Methodist University say the two sinkholes in Wink and neighboring Kermit, Texas are growing more unstable, and could spark more sinkholes or join to create one massive hole.

This will prove devastating to the local community, which has a combined population of almost 7,000.

SMU researchers Zhong Lu and Jin-Woo Kim recently published their sober warning in a recent article in the journal Remote Sensing.

‘This area is heavily populated with oil and gas production equipment and installations, hazardous liquid pipelines, as well as two communities. The intrusion of freshwater to underground can dissolve the interbedded salt layers and accelerate the sinkhole collapse,’ co-author Kim said in a press release.

‘A collapse could be catastrophic. Following our study, we are collecting more high-resolution satellite data over the sinkholes and neighboring regions to monitor further development and collapse.’

Lu and Kim discovered that the two holes were growing more unstable by using satellite images that measures depressions in the earth’s crust.

The satellite data found that the two holes – which are located about a mile apart – are rapidly growing and causing the ground around them to become more and more unstable – opening up the possibility of more sinkholes or the creation of one giant sinkhole.

Texas sinkholes are growing even bigger (PHOTO)

Texas sinkholes are growing even bigger (PHOTO)

The sinkhole in Wink is the oldest and smallest of the two sinkholes, but it is growing the fastest.

Right now it is about 361 feet across – or the length of a football field.

‘Even though Wink No. 1 collapsed in 1980, its neighboring areas are still subsiding,’ say the authors, ‘and the sinkhole continues to expand.’