Pasco County sinkhole stops growing; residents grab belongings

By: WFTV Web Staff

Updated:

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - A sinkhole 225-feet-wide and at least 50-feet-deep sinkhole swallowed two homes and a boat Friday morning in Pasco County's Land O' Lakes area, officials said. 

A third home was in danger of being swallowed by the sinkhole, officials said in a Friday afternoon news conference.

Later in the evening, officials said it appeared that the hole had stopped growing, but rain in the future could change that.

Watch: Why Central Florida is more prone to sinkholes

Engineers and deputies expect to be at the scene for weeks, as the rainy season and weather can add damage to the scene. 

Officials evacuated residents from nine surrounding homes on Ocean Pines Drive. Other nearby homeowners are under voluntary evacuation.

Some residents were allowed to return to their homes Saturday to grab essential belongings after officials said the hole had stopped growing.

Officials said the sinkhole was filled with mud and toxic waste, including fuels, septic tank contents and other household hazardous materials.

Photos: Sinkhole swallows 2 homes, boat in Pasco County


Watch the sinkhole swallow a home below:


Watch: Floods or droughts: Which causes sinkholes?

"We were hearing the dogs barking, and it was very emotional. We tried to do whatever we could," said the Ramirez family.

The Ramirez family had just enough time to grab their pets and some of their most important belongings before their home was swallowed up.

First responders helped residents, including an elderly woman, get their most important belongings and medications while the ground was collapsing under their homes.

Watch: Deputies describe helping residents and what's next for the neighborhood

“As the rest of the house started crumbling, large chunks would hit the water. Within seconds it was gone,” said Deputy Jay Murphy of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. 

Watch: Sinkhole swallows car after heavy rain in Ocala

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Read: Sinkhole opens under home in The Villages


Watch the video below to learn what causes sinkholes:


Read: Uber driver mistakes sinkhole for puddle, car plunges into muck

Two geologists from the state are investigating the sinkhole.

Investigators went from home to home in the neighborhood and tagged homes they felt were in potential jeopardy from the sinkhole.

 

 

"As we were walking around out there, you could feel that ground. It's soft, and you can almost feel the ground moving underneath your feet," said Sheriff Chris Nocco with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Officials have set up a 200-foot-wide buffer around the hole as a safety precaution.

 

 

The hole was growing about 2 feet an hour, officials said.

Read: Sinkhole swallows car in St. Louis

Authorities said a sinkhole opened on the same property five years ago and steps had been taken to stabilize the ground.

"You can see it in the people's eyes, the anxiety level. They're fearful. And unfortunately, we can't give them clear answers because this is Mother Nature," Nocco said.

"What can you say?" said a resident of one of the homes. "What can we do now? There's nothing to do. You can't stop sinkholes."

Deputies said they’ll be in the area overnight to keep people safe.

"We know it's going to be very hard for you to sleep, because anything, any bump in the night, you're going to wonder what's going on with your house,” said Nocco.

The American Red Cross is helping displaced families.

No one was injured.

Reported sinkholes since 1954...we have LOTS of sinkhole ponds here in Florida. pic.twitter.com/UGjEyVxkoN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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