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FIU professor found sinking land at Surfside collapse site in 1990s

An FIU professor documented sinking as early as the 1990s in the land where a Surfside condo tragically collapsed Thursday.
An FIU professor documented sinking as early as the 1990s in the land where a Surfside condo tragically collapsed Thursday.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – While Thursday’s tragic condo collapse in Surfside was unexpected, a professor at Florida International University found signs of that land gradually sinking in a study published last year.

“The 2020 study conducted by FIU Institute of Environment Professor Shimon Wdowinski identified the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium as the one place on the east side of the barrier island where land subsidence was detected from 1993 to 1999,” FIU said in a post on its website. “But land subsidence in and of itself likely would not cause a building’s collapse, according to Wdowinski, an expert in space geodesy, natural hazards and sea level rise.”

Subsidence is defined as the gradual caving in or sinking of an area of land. Wdowinski found that in the ’90s, Miami Beach experienced that sinking at the rate of 1-3 millimeters per year.

It is unclear at this time if that had an effect on the building’s collapse, and experts say it could take months to make determinations like those.

“When we measure subsidence or when we see movement of the buildings, it’s worth checking why it happens,” Wdowinski said on FIU’s website. “We cannot say what is the reason for that from the satellite images but we can say there was movement here.”

At this point, the focus is on the rescue and recovery mission that could last days at the site of the collapse near 88th Street and Collins Avenue.

Wdowinski’s study was published in the Ocean & Coastal Management journal in April 2020.

Watch Wdowinski discuss his findings in the video below provided by FIU:


About the Author:

David Selig is the Digital Executive Producer at WPLG, overseeing Local10.com.