Sinkhole In Orlando Threatens To Devour Homes

Residents in a neighborhood near Orlando, Fla. have been struggling to save two homes that the owners fear may soon get swallowed up by a giant sinkhole that opened up between them.

ABC news 7 reports that the homes that are precariously balancing on the edges of the sinkhole in Sumter County are located in the retirement community known as The Villages, and what started as just a tiny opening in the earth a few weeks ago quickly turned into a raging maw of doom. Giovanni Velocci, a neighbor who lives across the street from the two homes, said he was on his morning walk when he noticed the sinkhole that had opened up the previous night.

“As I was coming back from my walk, I didn’t see the tree. I thought someone had stolen the tree or something.”

Local fire department spokesman Peter Carpenter said the tiny sinkhole started in one yard and that the homeowners did try to get someone out to fix the problem. Before anyone could get out to look at it, however, the sinkhole decided to yawn open even further, stretching about 30 feet across on the surface.

Geologist Drew Glasbrenner claims the majority of the problem happened overnight, in one massive collapse that tore through both yards and threatened to take out a nearby road. Glasbrenner and his crew filled the hole and reinforced one of the home’s foundation to the limestone with steel underpinnings. That evening, his work proved futile as heavy rains weakened the soil and all came crumbling down.

Now, Glasbrenner says, all that is holding the home from falling into the sinkhole are the reinforcements that were put in place. The second home did not opt to have reinforcements put in before the sinkhole expanded, and now the home is considered to be at the greatest risk. Glasbrenner has since brought in workers with Helicon Property Restoration who, using dump trucks, are pouring in a mixture of sand and concrete into the sinkhole in hopes that it will prevent further collapse.

“Underneath the driveway there is no soil there yet, the driveway is still standing,” project manager Rich Kay said Saturday.

Since the collapse, neither homeowner is reportedly staying at the property and as of this point, no other residents have been asked to evacuate. Still, citizens fear this sinkhole could mimic a similar one that happened back in August just outside of Tampa, Fla., in which a man was swallowed whole while he slept in his bed.

Florida residents have good reason to fear more and more tragedy and damage from sinkholes, as experts claim there are possibly thousands of areas under the state where the water seeping into the ground is eroding the limestone foundation. This means big trouble for the Sunshine State, trouble that no one is prepared to deal with on this magnitude. To this end, the University of Florida has offered a sinkhole preparedness pamphlet so residents will know how to handle things when their back yards turn into a gaping abyss.

Sinkholes aren’t just a threat to the residents of Florida. In fact, they are becoming a problem on the global level, as climate changes take their toll on the planet. While the sinkhole in Sumter county was frightening, their problem is just a drop in the bucket compared to what people around the world are facing. The Qattara Depression, west of Cairo, Egypt, is the largest sinkhole in the world, measuring nearly 50 miles long and over 74 miles wide; it was formed by winds eating away the underlying salt beds until they hit the water table beneath them.

In Berezniki, Russia, a sinkhole 131 feet wide and 262 feet deep opened up, nearly destroying the only railroad that Berezniki has to export the valuable potash that is mined there. Berezniki supplies 10% of all potash on the market.

Still, not every sinkhole is bad for the people where it forms. Take Bimmah, Oman for example; when a 65-foot sinkhole dropped in their neighborhood, the residents capitalized on it and turned it into a giant swim park. Take a look at the beauty such a destructive force of nature can create in the video below: