More homes in The Villages could be in danger from sinkhole

By Bakari Savage, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, April 21, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
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Crews in Sumter County have filled an expansive sinkhole in The Villages, but more homes near the hole could still be in danger.

When the sinkhole started as a depression Saturday morning, measuring about 35 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Officials said it ended up growing to 60 feet wide and 50 feet deep, swallowing a tree and threatening two neighboring homes.

More than 100 trucks delivered 5 million pounds of grout -- a mixture of sand and cemete -- to fill the sinkhole, but the danger isn't over yet. An engineer is expected to take a closer look at the ground in the area.

Jay Silver with Helicon Property Restoration, the Tampa company that filled the hole, said it was one of the worst he had ever seen, and expects the engineer to find more threats nearby.

"I'd say from seeing what we see, it could be very likely that they find something out in the road area here," said Silver. "I'd say it's very likely that they could find some additional voids that could trigger something similar."

"The threat has been mitigated, but it's not over yet," Silver added.

To put the repairs in The Villages into perspective, a normal sinkhole fix like this costs about $40,000. Silver said the cost to save these two homes is over $200,000.

What causes sinkholes?

Sinkholes are depressions or a collapse of the land surface as the limestone below cracks and develops fractures. Acidic waters seeping through the soil lead to the breakdown over long periods of time.

While these types of events often occur after a high accumulation of rainfall in a brief period of time, they can also take place in extremely dry conditions, as the water table below the surface drops or dries out.

Sinkhole Warning Signs

There are several signs you can watch for that may lead to the formation of a sinkhole:

  • Fresh exposure on fence posts, foundations and trees that result when the ground sinks
  • Slumping, sagging or slanting fence posts, trees or other objects
  • Doors and windows that fail to close properly
  • Ponding: Small ponds of rainfall forming where water has not collected before
  • Wilting of small, circular areas of vegetation, because the moisture that normally supports vegetation in the area is draining into a developing sinkhole below the surface
  • Turbidity in water in nearby wells
  • Structural cracks in walls, floors and pavement
  • Cracks in the ground surface.

Think you might have a sinkhole?

If you think you have a sinkhole on your property:

  • Mark and secure the hole. Keep children and pets away.
  • If the hole is directly affecting the house, stay outside of the dwelling.
  • Call your property insurance adjuster and report it immediately.
  • If the sinkhole causes extensive damage, contact your county's Office of Emergency Management.

If a sinkhole opens in a nearby road:

  • Call the local law enforcement agency immediately.
  • If the road is private, repair is the responsibility of the landowner or the property owner's association.

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection