Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon Springs family watches as giant sinkholes form all around them

Two sinkholes opened up in the back yard of a house at 709 S Disston Ave. in Tarpon Springs on Thursday. One hole left part of the home’s foundation hanging over the edge, and another hole partly swallowed a storage building.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Two sinkholes opened up in the back yard of a house at 709 S Disston Ave. in Tarpon Springs on Thursday. One hole left part of the home’s foundation hanging over the edge, and another hole partly swallowed a storage building.

TARPON SPRINGS — First it was a front yard with six cars parked on it. Then it was a sinkhole.

Anitra Merricks and her family saw it unfold slowly about 6 p.m. Thursday. They had just come outside after the earth gave in with a yawning boom behind her grandmother's home at 709 S Disston Ave.

That was a small one.

They walked through the house and out to the front, where relatives had parked their automobiles, including Merricks' Mercury Milan. Then they heard a rumbling from the street.

"Someone said, 'Look, the house is caving in,' " said Merricks, 29, of Holiday. "We started moving our cars, and then the whole thing started sinking in.

"Then probably half an hour, 45 minutes later, 5 feet away from that hole, the middle of the road, the concrete. … It looked like it was melting, but it just started sinking in."

Two holes eventually combined to form one crater of rust-colored earth about 50 feet deep and stretching from the house to the other side of Disston Avenue. Everyone got the cars moved in time.

"You could probably fit a couple of good-sized vehicles in the hole," said Tarpon Springs public works director Thomas Funcheon.

Firefighters deemed that the house, which was built in 1958, was unsafe for Merricks' grandparents, Virginia Crawford, 83, and Nathaniel Crawford, 90, to stay in.

The Crawfords, who moved in more than 50 years ago, will have to find a new home, Merricks said. Officials also evacuated a home next door. The American Red Cross was assisting residents with temporary shelter.

Earlier in the day, the Crawfords had summoned an engineering company to the home after they noticed cracks along the interior walls.

They suspected sinkholes, which are common in the area, but were stunned when the ground began giving away around them.

By early evening, two more craters had formed behind the Crawfords' home, one 12 feet wide and 7 feet deep, the other 25 feet wide and 13 feet deep. A concrete shed as large as a garage fell into one, and part of the Crawfords' block home was also slipping in.

Officials were investigating what caused the sinkholes to form.

"We don't know why it happened," Funcheon said. "We believe it's natural, but we can't say for sure right now."

The sinkholes snapped part of a sewer line, but service in the area won't be affected, Funcheon said. Police also had blocked off the road surrounding the sinkholes.

Merricks said losing the home, where relatives and friends gathered nearly every day, will be hard on the tight-knit family.

"This is our home away from home. To see this happen is kind of crazy," she said. "You see sinkholes on TV but for it to unfold in front of your eyes, it's unbelievable."

Times staff photographer Jim Damaske and staff writer Demorris A. Lee contributed to this report. Luis Perez can be reached at [email protected] or (727)892-2271.

Tarpon Springs family watches as giant sinkholes form all around them 06/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 12:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills

    Bucs

    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) watches a replay while sitting out with an injury during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  2. What to watch this weekend: 'The Walking Dead,' Stephen King's '1922'

    Blogs

    100 episodes of walkers: The Walking Dead

    Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead.
  3. Editorial: GOP failing to protect health care for Florida kids

    Editorials

    In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature is considering how to make it easier for low-income families to apply for subsidized health insurance for their children. In Washington, Congress cannot even agree on how to keep paying for the popular program. There is a disconnect that threatens health coverage for about 215,000 …

    In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature is considering how to make it easier for low-income families to apply for subsidized health insurance for their children. In Washington, Congress cannot even agree on how to keep paying for the popular program.
  4. Infamous killers of Tampa Bay, a region familiar with horror

    Crime

    TAMPA — Three people have been shot and killed in the last two weeks in Seminole Heights, and police say the cases are related. On Thursday night it was Anthony Naiboa, 20, who just happened to get off at the wrong bus stop.

    [Times files]
  5. Dunedin man accused of possessing homemade explosives released under Baker Act

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A 24-year-old man who was arrested for possessing destructive explosives Wednesday is no longer in jail.

    Randall Winston Drake, 24, of Dunedin is being held in lieu of $20,000 bail. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]