Massive sinkhole threatens homes, draws gawkers in Florida neighborhood

A massive, slowly-expanding sinkhole in Florida has local residents frightened and passersby curious about a year after a much bigger sinkhole sucked a Tampa-area man into oblivion.

The latest sinkhole in the Sunshine State, home to more of the fast-forming craters than any other state in the nation, opened up late Saturday on Spring Hill, a Gulf Coast town some 50 miles north of Clearwater. No one has been hurt, but at least one home has been evacuated due to the 40-foot-wide sinkhole and residents are concerned will spread to adjoining properties.

The hole — roughly 30 feet deep — appeared late Saturday at the intersection of Eldridge Road and Van Allen Way in Spring Hill, reports. The extreme spectacle has prompted some residents to consider collecting tolls from onlookers and gawkers trying to get a glimpse of the crumbling earth.

“I didn’t think I would have to move so soon,” homeowner Linda Fisher told the Tampa Bay Times.

Officials will investigate the hole on Monday to determine what action to take next, county spokeswoman Virginia Singer told the newspaper. Residents in three surrounding homes, including Sam Haneiwich, who is toying with the idea of trying to cash in on the spectacle, are now awaiting those results.

Fisher, 64, was out of town over the weekend when she got a call from her daughter, Michelle Parisik, telling her that her home had been featured on local news. She later returned early Sunday to save her white Persian longhair cat, Mr. Twiddles. Fisher bought the home about 18 months ago to be closer to relatives and intended on doing some renovations, Parisik said.

“She had plans for this place,” she told the newspaper. “It’s devastating.”

Peggy Helmick, who lives across the street from Fisher, is now worried the hole will spread to her property. She, along with many other residents in the area, dropped her sinkhole insurance because it became too expensive to justify.

“I spend a lot of time taking care of this place,” Helmick told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now it’s not worth [expletive]. I’m going to be here for the rest of my life.”

Pepper Daniels, 76, and her husband, Lou, 86, reported the sinkhole to authorities late Saturday as she and other residents watched it slowly grow.

“We were watching the earth crumble,” Helmick told the newspaper.

A forecast for rain could expand the hole on Monday, forcing even more evacuations, residents and authorities fear.

Fisher, meanwhile, is staying at a nearby hotel until she determines her next move.

“There’s worse things that are going on in this world,” she told the newspaper. “I’m focused on moving forward.”

It was March of 2013 when a large sinkhole near Tampa made international headlines when it swallowed a man as he slept in his bed. Authorities determined 36-year-old Jeff Bush died in the collapse, and his body was never recovered. That sinkhole was about 30 feet in width and 20 feet deep. But under the edges, the hole spread to more than 100 feet, according to authorities, making the risk of collapse too great to attempt a recovery effort.