Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Expanding hole forces residents to evacuate Tarpon Springs mobile home park (w/video)

TARPON SPRINGS — A 60-foot-wide hole opened near a mobile home park Wednesday morning, triggering evacuations as authorities responded to the scene.

The hole, estimated to be about 35 feet deep, is off U.S. 19 near Mango Street adjacent to the Tarpon Shores Mobile Home Park. Tarpon Springs spokeswoman Judy Staley said no one was injured, but about 20 people from six homes were evacuated as a precaution.

Two of those people were Dave and Becky Haver, snowbirds from Ohio who own the house directly in front of the hole. The couple said they came to Florida in December and planned to leave for Ohio this weekend, but their plans changed when they saw the hole open around 9 a.m.

"We may just rearrange the vehicle, pack up and head north today," said Dave Haver, 74, who was in his backyard workshop when ground gave way. He said he heard crunching and cracking as the hole sucked in about 20 feet of their white fence, revealing a utility worker on the other side who warned him not to come any closer.

Becky Haver, 62, said she and her husband were able to grab some clothes, medications, paperwork and basic necessities before police knocked on their front door and told them to "hurry up and get out."

The couple called the hole totally unexpected, but said workers have been repairing something on the other side of the fence for about a week. Staley confirmed that this week the city had contractors from Earth Tech Geotechnical Construction Services working under Tampa-based engineering firm Tierra Inc. to repair a previous road collapse.

Tarpon Springs police Maj. Jeff Young said it was unclear if workers caused the hole, but when ground gave way it caused breaks in a 30-inch county sewer line, a 6-inch city sewer line and a 4-inch city water line. Staley said because there are both city and county lines and a part of the mobile home's fence involved, responsibility for repairs may fall on all three parties. She confirmed multiple sinkholes have opened around the mobile home park in the past.

Authorities said the hole is expected to grow in size. Pinellas County spokeswoman Mary Burrell said crews are working to divert water flow from the broken sewer line and ask that residents east of Lake Tarpon and north of East Lake Woodlands avoid unnecessary use of water until further notice.

Staley said crews are attempting to drain the wastewater from the hole so they can assess the damage. City and county emergency services and the American Red Cross will find a place for displaced residents to stay. Crews will make a temporary repair April 2 and a permanent one once the hole is stabilized.

Dave and Becky Haver said no information has been given to them or their neighbors about when they will be let back into their homes. They're prepared to go back to Ohio if they have to.

"We were getting ready to leave, but we didn't expect to leave under these terms," Becky Haver said. "It isn't how I wanted to end my vacation, that's for sure."

Times staff writer Laura Morel contributed to this report. Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @mreeves_tbt.

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