Fact check: Sinkhole caused a Missouri lake to drain — again

Claim: A sinkhole drained a lake in Missouri
Much of a 17 acre lake in Missouri disappeared almost overnight after a sinkhole formed - for the second time in five years.
Images of the phenomenon quickly spread on social media.
"A sinkhole has opened and drained the lake," read the headline of a May 9 Facebook post that was shared nearly 2,000 times.
This is accompanied by two photos of the lake in Lone Elk Park in St. Louis, showing water being sucked into a sinkhole near the coast while people watch. The user did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
The photos are legitimate and were released by multiple media outlets on Monday.
Sinkhole appeared on the weekend
On May 7, St. Louis County posted on its website that the lake was "leaking." The report stated that the park, along with its streets and paths, had remained open.
On the same day, officials learned that the water level had dropped about 3 feet. The sinkhole was exposed as the water continued to drain, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The water drained underground and reappeared in an old creek bed that is part of Castlewood State Park, St. Louis County park director Tom Ott told Post-Dispatch. Castlewood State Park is about 1 mile from the partially drained 50-year-old lake in Lone Elk Park.
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Officials have not yet established the cause of the sinkhole hole, but there are some theories.
Over the winter, officials repaired a hole in the water that allowed the water level to rise again. That added pressure could have caused the ground to give way, Tobi Moriarty, manager of design and development at St. Louis County Parks and Recreation, told Fox 2.
The cause could also have been an earthquake that shook the area in April. "That would make a lot of sense," said Moriarty.
The 2.5 magnitude earthquake left no visible damage. Except possibly the sinkhole.
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Sherri Stoner, senior manager of environmental geology for the Missouri Geological Survey, emailed USA TODAY that the sinkhole is approximately 6 feet in diameter.
Officials estimate the sinkhole is about 20 feet deep, Moriarty said.
Bison, wild turkeys, elk and deer have lived in Lone Elk Park since the 1970s. Before the park opened to the public in 1973, the area was used for testing and storing ammunition from World War II.
But sinkholes are nothing new to Missourians.
Common sinkholes in Missouri
There are approximately 16,000 sinkholes in Missouri, some of which reach a depth of 100 feet, according to the Missouri Geological Survey, a division of the state's Department of Natural Resources.
The program says the state is vulnerable to sinkholes because of the materials found in the terrain in most areas: carbonate bedrock and limestone, which are very porous.
When it rains, the water passes through cracks in the limestone layer until it reaches the bedrock and erodes. When stones are washed away, large air bubbles form under the floor, which eventually give way, collapsing the floor and creating a sinkhole.
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In 2004, a 50-foot-wide sinkhole drained 23-acre Lake Chesterfield in a matter of days. The lake had an average depth of 7 to 10 feet.
And in 2016, a sinkhole was opened in the same lake in Lone Elk Park.
The 2016 hole was repaired by filling it with a concrete slurry mix, the Post-Dispatch reported. Officials have not said whether they will use the same mixture to mend the current sinkhole.
"We started the process to find a solution and fix the lake," said Moriarty. “The aesthetic is the largest part of this lake. People come here expecting a great, big, beautiful lake. We will try to get it back for you as soon as possible. "
Patricia Merlenbach Brasier, who spent Mother's Day at the lake after learning about the sinkhole, witnessed the drainage and posted photos on Facebook. These photos were consistent with the images examined in this test.
"It was cool. You could hear the water rushing in," Merlenbach Brasier told USA TODAY.
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Our rating: correct
We evaluate the claim that an image shows a sinkhole on a lake in Lone Elk Park TRUE based on our research. Officials have reached out to the sinkhole and several local news outlets have reported on it and exchanged pictures that matched the scenery of the photos shared on Facebook.
Our sources for verifying facts:
St. Louis County, accessed May 10, Lone Elk Park
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 10, Sinkhole partially drains the lake in Lone Elk Park - and not for the first time
Associated Press, May 10, Sinkhole drains much of the water from Lake St. Louis
KMOX, May 10th, Another large sinkhole opens and drains the lake in Lone Elk Park
Interview with Patricia Merlenbach Brasier, May 10th
Patricia Merlenbach Brasier, May 9, Facebook post
Fox 2 Now, May 16, 2016, the springs of Lone Elk Park lake are leaking
West News Magazine, May 26, 2016, Dwindling Lake presents puzzles in Lone Elk Park
Missouri Department of Natural Resources, accessed May 13, Sinkholes, Missouri
Missouri Department of Natural Resources, accessed May 13, Missouri Geological Survey
Missouri Geological Survey, accessed May 13, GeoSTRAT
Washington University in St. Louis, Jan 6, 2020, Geology of Missouri
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 11, 2004, Lake Chesterfield goes down the drain
Fox 2 St. Louis, May 10, Sinkhole drains man-made lake in Lone Elk Park
Missouri Department of Natural Resources, accessed May 13, Youth Education and Interpretation, Missouri Karst Topography
US Geological Survey, accessed May 13, Earthquake in Eureka, MO
KSDK, April 20, earthquake reported in Eureka
Fox 2, April 20, minor earthquake hit Eureka, Missouri Tuesday
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Our fact-checking is partially supported by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Fact Check: Sinkhole partially drains Lake Missouri for the second time

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