BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WBOY) — After intense amounts of rain over the past week, a sinkhole has opened in the Speedway parking lot in Bridgeport just off of Route 50.

One side of the parking lot has been blocked off completely.

The hole is not very big or deep, but it leaves the question, could more sinkholes open up in the area?

Sinkholes are caused by the lowering of groundwater, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). They can also be caused by extreme weather changes such as freezing, thawing, drought or heavy rain. High water can dissolve minerals and wash away soil under the ground, then, when that water lowers, there is nothing to support the ground, causing it to fall in.

It is possible that more sinkholes could open in north central West Virginia? And could they be much more destructive? According to the United States Geology Survey (USGS), sinkholes are most common and generally most destructive in places where the rock under the ground is comprised of limestone, carbonate rock, and salt beds. These rocks are most common in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, eastern New York, Indiana, southeastern Minnesota and parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, although some places in West Virginia are at some risk for sinkholes.

A map created by the USGS shows that parts of West Virginia have carbonate rock near the surface, putting those areas at greater risk for sinkholes. The most at-risk areas are in the mountains, spanning from Monroe County in the southern part of the state to Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the eastern panhandle. The carbonate rock can also be found speckled throughout other parts of West Virginia, including north central West Virginia and the northern panhandle, although not as concentrated. The full map can be seen here.

U.S. Geology Survey map of rock under the surface. The blue in West Virginia shows the presence of carbonate rock (Courtesy: USGS).

The Monroe County karst in southern West Virginia is one of the densest sinkhole plains in the world, according to the DEP, with an average of 18 sinkholes per square kilometer. Click here for more information.