Florida sinkhole threatens 2 Orlando-area homes

April 21, 2014 (SUMTER COUNTY, Fla.)

Two homes at The Villages retirement community in Sumter County were just inches from falling into the earth, a sinkhole 50 feet deep. Workers were racing to save the homes as more ground caved in.

Peter Carpenter, a spokesperson with the fire department, said the sinkhole opened up a few weeks ago. It started as just a small hole in one yard, so the homeowners called someone to fix it. However, since that time the hole has expanded and now it's at a point where authorities are worried about both homes.

According to geologist Drew Glasbrenner, the hole is about 25-30 feet across at the surface. On Saturday night alone, the sinkhole spread across the yard toward the roadway. Glasbrenner and his team filled the small hole, then shored up the property using steel underpinnings, connecting the home's foundation to the limestone underneath. Then suddenly, the rest of the earth dropped away overnight.

Heavy rains turned the once-small hole into a huge cavity. Now, the rods are all that is stopping the sinkhole from swallowing the house.

One of the homes doesn't have underpinnings in place, so Glasbrenner is worried that the hole could give way. Crews are dumping truckloads of filler into the hole, filling it with a sand and cement mixture in hopes that it will stop the growth of the hole.

Neither of the families is home right now, so no one is in danger and none of the other residents has had to evacuate the neighborhood.

Florida is sinkhole central. Dozens of families at an Orlando-area vacation resort had to run for their lives in August In another incident outside Tampa, a man was swallowed whole, sleeping in his bed.

Experts say thousands of possible sinkholes are waiting to open up in Florida as underground water washes away the limestone and the earth falls in.

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