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As sinkhole assessment begins, one thing certain: Spring Hill house is unlivable

Carl Adams works Monday to clear a sinkhole that opened up Saturday evening near the intersection of Van Allen Way and Eldridge Road in Spring Hill. Workers would later start filling the hole with a concrete mix. 
Carl Adams works Monday to clear a sinkhole that opened up Saturday evening near the intersection of Van Allen Way and Eldridge Road in Spring Hill. Workers would later start filling the hole with a concrete mix. 
Published Jul. 22, 2014

SPRING HILL

How do you move out of a house in one day?

You pack kitchen utensils in empty cat litter containers because you don't have boxes. You use place mats as padding because the newspapers were taken with the recycling on Friday. You recruit friends, neighbors, anyone who wants to help because you couldn't have planned for this.

That's what Linda Fisher, 64, learned after a sinkhole swallowed half of her yard Saturday and left her home with cracks on the floors and walls.

Hernando County officials on Monday began the process of assessing the damage and removing debris from the 40-yard-wide, 30-foot-deep hole at the intersection of Eldridge Road and Van Allen Way, said county spokeswoman Virginia Singer.

They determined one thing for sure: Fisher's house is unsafe to live in.

Fisher and three friends packed her possessions room by room.

"It's just stuff," Fisher said, standing in the doorway of her bedroom.

"A lot of it," her friend, Barb Timo, yelled from the kitchen.

Timo was right. Fisher's house was filled with a mix of antique and modern furniture, fringed oriental rugs and original artwork painted by friends and family members. Every bed had matching throw pillows and every table had a centerpiece, many with peacock feathers.

On one wall stood a grandfather clock for which Fisher and one of her daughters made layaway payments to a shop in Iowa for a year.

"That, I'm keeping," Fisher said.

But aside from the clock and a few other items, she plans to sell the rest. She needs the money. Without sinkhole insurance, Fisher is unsure of how the damage will be handled by her homeowner's insurance.

For Fisher to be covered by the catastrophe coverage in her insurance policy, a government official would have to deem her home unlivable, said Jim Flynn, communications director of the Florida Association of Sinkhole Stabilization Specialists.

"It's now subjective to the insurance company," he said.

The cost to the county also remained unknown. In a typical sinkhole cleanup, officials use ground-penetrating radar to find out if the hole could spread, Flynn said. Then, they remove debris and fill the hole with sand and compaction grout, which is made of sand, cement and fly ash.

On Monday, nearby residents trickled in an out to watch workers scoop sand and asphalt out of the hole with an excavator, including one man who cracked open a Dos Equis beer while taking in the spectacle. By late afternoon, workers had begun pouring concrete into the depression. A geo-technical consultant will further assess the hole today.

Inside Fisher's home, a crack about an inch wide cut across the tile. More cracks spread over the ceiling and walls of the garage.

There were enough for her to know even before the county's verdict that she didn't want to stay.

Over the course of the day, more friends and neighbors came by to help Fisher carry boxes from the back of the house.

Out front, the excavator picked up chunks of her driveway and plopped them into a Dumpster.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (352)754-6114 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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