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Water main break spawns sinkhole, floods several homes

Her day had been hectic enough, even before the water came.

Tina Tyler was staying home to care for her sick daughter, 2-year-old Molly. About 9:30 a.m., just as she was calling work to tell them she couldn't come in, she noticed the black, soil-laden water rushing through the front door.

"It was like rapids," she said. "There was nothing I could do. I was in shock."

Within minutes, it swamped her house at 6418 S Himes Ave., ruining everything in its path. The flood came so quickly, filling her floors with 4 or 5 inches of water, that Tyler couldn't open the front door. She and her daughter escaped out a side door.

The cause of all the destruction: a sinkhole.

City officials said a 12-inch water main broke and caused a sinkhole that spanned the width of the street Thursday morning, swallowing a city water department truck and damaging at least three nearby homes.

They said residents called Thursday morning after noticing water bubbling up from the street. City employee Shawn Williams responded to the call in his white city-issued truck.

Danielle Dubin, who lives next door to Tyler, came outside to talk to Williams. As she stood at his driver's side window, she noticed water had begun bubbling up from the other side of his truck and told him so.

That's when the bottom fell out _ literally.

"All of a sudden the road up and swallows his truck," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Both Williams and Dubin were able to scramble to safety, and neither was injured. City workers eventually capped the line and turned off water to the street while they investigated the break and pumped water from the sinkhole.

"We're trying to figure out what happened," said McElroy, who said workers went door to door to inquire who had suffered damage from the flood.

She also said the city would provide temporary housing for people in several homes that were damaged and would pay for necessary repairs.

"They're going to be taken care of," she said.

Still, the unlucky few residents were left with soaking floors and cars buried wheel-deep in sand and headaches they couldn't have dreamed of when they woke up Thursday morning.

"Everything in the house was ruined," Dubin said. "Basically everything we own was lost."

Tyler faced the same fate. But her daughter was safe and, between her tears, she found room for a smile.

"I made it through four hurricanes here," she said, looking toward her soaked kitchen. "I didn't have any flooding."