Giant Sinkhole Opens Up in California Trader Joe’s

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jul 03, 2024

A Trader Joe’s in Greenbrae, California has suddenly closed without prior notice for what the company is calling “unexpected construction.”

However, new reporting has indicated that this store has closed indefinitely because a sinkhole has opened up in the area, potentially putting workers and customers at risk.

A Sudden Closing

Regular customers of the Trader Joe’s at Larkspur in Greenbrae, California were stunned when they arrived at the store one morning to find that the doors were locked. The grocery store was completely closed.

An exterior shot of a Trader Joe’s store in California.

Source: TaurusEmerald/Wikimedia Commons

The only indication that this closing was temporary was a sign on the front doors explaining that the store would be closed for “unexpected construction.”


The Discovery of a Sinkhole

No other information has been given by Trader Joe’s about why this store was closed, or when it could possibly reopen.

A close-up of a small sinkhole developing on a road.

Source: Famartin/Wikimedia Commons

Eventually, local reporting in San Francisco revealed that the store actually closed because they discovered a sinkhole that had opened up near the back of the store.

How Sinkholes Form

Sinkholes can form when water becomes stuck underneath the ground, as it cannot naturally drain out. So, after it rains, this water can be stuck underneath the ground.

A close-up of rain falling on wood outside.

Source: Liv Bruce/Unsplash

This water will be retained and could simply just add up over time, slowly dissolving the rock beneath it, which then causes the ground to fall away and form a sinkhole.

Trader Joe’s Speculation

As Trader Joe’s hasn’t come out to explain in detail what’s going on with this sudden store closure thanks to an apparent sinkhole, there’s been a lot of speculation online from customers and even employees.

An interior look at a Trader Joe’s store in California with shoppers.

Source: Suiren2022/Wikimedia Commons

One Trader Joe’s employee reportedly posted on Reddit about the situation, writing, “TJs employee here. Gonna keep it short and sweet, the dairy fridge is literally sinking into the crawlspace below and there are visible cracks in the floor and a noticeable slope. An engineer/inspector is coming over soon to survey how bad it is, but there’s no official word on if it’s unsafe or not. Additionally, we were told to limit our answers to questions about it to just being a ‘construction project’ (since the fridge is closed off), which seems pretty sketchy.”

Different Reporting

There were many different reports coming out about this Trader Joe’s store. At first, the company simply said they had to deal with unexpected construction.

Cars and people outside a Trader Joe’s in the daytime.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Then, it was reported that there was a bad subfloor that was sagging because of the weight of the store’s refrigerators. Now, it appears this sudden sinkhole is to blame.


Other Sinkholes in the Area

Since this Trader Joe’s situation began to be reported on, it appears other reporting has claimed that there are other sinkholes in the general vicinity.

An interior look of a Trader Joe’s with people shopping inside.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

A liquor store in the same plaza as Trader Joe’s is said to have a sinkhole issue as well. This could suggest that there’s a much larger sinkhole issue in this region.


An Indefinitely Closed Store

So far, Trader Joe’s hasn’t come out to explain when this specific location will actually be open, once again.

An exterior view of a Trader Joe’s store with cars parked out front.

Source: Phillip Pessar/Wikimedia Commons

There’s also no telling if they’ll be able to easily fix this sinkhole in the store. According to the store’s employee’s Reddit post, there’s a lot of confusion about this entire scenario.


Sinkholes in the United States

As the U.S. doesn’t keep data on how many sinkholes appear each year in the country, it’s hard to know just how common sinkholes can occur in certain areas.

A close-up of a developing small sinkhole in a road.

Source: Famartin/Wikimedia Commons

However, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has stated that sinkhole claims cost the state about $1.4 billion from 2006 to 2010.


Deadly Situations

Luckily, it doesn’t appear that sinkholes are incredibly deadly, as a University of Florida professor who studies sinkholes has explained that only two people have died from sinkholes in the last 40 years.

A large and flat sinkhole seen in front of mountains in a remote area.

Source: NPS Natural Resources/Wikimedia Commons

Of course, that doesn’t mean that these situations can’t be deadly — as they clearly can lead to unsafe situations.


A Deadly Sinkhole That Keeps Coming Back

One deadly sinkhole incident occurred in 2013 when a sinkhole opened up underneath the home of Jeff Bush while he was sleeping. This hole completely consumed his home and led to Bush’s death, though his body was never found.

A large sinkhole with tape all around it in front of a home in Florida.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons

Since this incident, this sinkhole has opened up two different times, all in the same exact area.


The U.S.’s Largest Sinkhole

Sinkholes can vary in size, and most people likely have only seen quite small ones. However, large ones can suddenly open up overnight, as seen in the death of Jeff Bush.

An aerial black and white photo of a giant sinkhole that appeared in Shelby County, Alabama in 1972.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The largest sinkhole that has ever appeared in the United States opened up in 1972 in Shelby County, Alabama. This hole was about 325 feet long, 300 feet wide, and almost 120 feet deep.