Dunedin homeowner Michael Dupre said he thought it was a burglar.
Hearing noises outside his Robmar Road home early Thursday, Dupre awoke to find the back room of his home and boat sinking into the ground. He quickly realized his worst fear was happening: a sinkhole.
The hole has grown steadily and quickly throughout the day and into the night. At originally 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep, the whole has more than tripled in size to 90 feet wide by 60 feet deep.
At around 8:30 p.m., the garage on the house to the right of the Dupres fell into the sinkhole.
Officials said under the fence sits a main sewer line that could potentially snap if the ground gives way any further. There are roots exposed from a huge tree on the lot, which officials are also concerned could create even more damage if it falls.
As the mammoth crater continues to grow, so does the fear in the neighborhood.
"I'm scared for my kids and my family and they're scared too now," said neighbor Patty Ferguson.
Late Thursday night, officials said the situation continues to get worse. Seven homes were evacuated and two were condemned.
"For us, they think we may be in the clear,” said neighbor Matthew Tegerdine. “It's nothing official. So I think I got really really lucky."
Around 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, emergency officials responded to the neighborhood and residents were evacuated from homes in the 1000 block of Robmar Road.
"So it was the sheriff's department at the door and said evacuate immediately, active sinkhole," said Tegerdine. "Grab only essential items and get out."
Dunedin Fire Chief Jeff Parks confirmed the sinkhole.
The two homes on the immediate sides of the sinkhole are in the most danger. A swimming pool in the home next door has cracked. Parks said the sinkhole is in parts of two backyards. The ground there is so unstable that both homes will need to be demolished, Parks said.
"Scary," said neighbor Olga Mclean. "They have to check it out and make sure they don't have one there, too."
"It was because the sinkhole is right in our neighbor's yard and they were afraid that it would spread to our yard," said neighbor Roman Tegerdine. "It was in its early stages, so they really had no idea. It was a danger."
Specialists and engineers were called to the scene. Officials said the hole appears to be growing and cracks and pops were heard throughout the morning.
No injuries have been reported.
Deputies will continue to monitor the homes and sinkhole throughout the night and into the morning hours. On Saturday, crews will begin filling the hole with 27,000 cubic feet of dirt.
Homeowner Michael Dupre had been concerned about sinkholes
Dupre said a sinkhole prevention company had been pouring grout into the home's foundation during the past two days.
He first noticed cracks both inside and outside his house back in 2011.
According to a report obtained by Bay News 9, an engineering firm came out and completed a series of tests, concluding sinkhole activity caused the crack.
The Dupre family said by doing this, they tried to stop a sinkhole from happening.
Dupre said early Thursday morning he heard what sounded like a sledgehammer pounding on a wall.
"There was a sinkhole before and we knew there was sinkhole activity," Dupre said. "After the Seffner sinkhole, we were scared. We've been dealing with our insurance company and finally two days ago, they started working on our house. Now it looks like our home is gone."
On Feb. 28, Jeffrey Bush died when a sinkhole opened under his bedroom in Seffner. His body was never recovered.
Dupre's daughter Ivy said the family quickly gathered belongings before running out of the home.
"It was all, like, sinking," Ivy Dupre said. "We got out of the house, we grabbed some things we needed and (got out). And then we called 911."
Sinkholes are common in Florida because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks such as limestone that store and help move water underground. Over time, the rocks can dissolve from an acid created from oxygen in water, creating a void under the limestone roof. When dirt, clay or sand gets too heavy for the limestone roof, it can collapse, creating a sinkhole.
Meanwhile, Michael Dupre said he was just glad no one was hurt.
"This is our house, we bought five years ago that we wanted to grow old in," Dupre said. "That probably won't happen now. But we're just glad everyone is safe. We'll just have to see what comes next."
The Red Cross closed the St. Andrews Church shelter in Dunedin at 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Three families were assisted by Red Cross volunteers and have found lodging elsewhere.
Volunteers will remain on alert and the shelter will be on standby until this catastrophic ground collapse is stabilized.