Environment

'Sinkhole fiasco' plagues Florida neighborhood, as a dozen holes open in the ground

For residents of an Ocala neighborhood that had been forced to evacuate last week due to sinkholes, it seems terra firma has it in for them.

Two more sinkholes opened up in that same neighborhood Tuesday, bringing the number to 12 plaguing the Fore Ranch community recently in this Central Florida city of nearly 60,000 residents.

Cars, swallowed whole, have sunk into gaping maws as if on a disaster movie set.

"Yeah man, it's crazy," Ocala neighbor Eddie Betaseourt told WCJB ABC 20. "I got kids in the house and I want them to play in the backyard, but if a sinkhole opens up, they could get hurt."

There's reason to fear.

In February 2013, a sinkhole opened up in Seffner, a suburb of Tampa, and sucked in a man into the earth. He had been in his bedroom turning in for the night. The man and his bedroom furniture disappeared into the hole.

The remains of Jeffrey Bush, 36, were never found. His brother Jeremy had heard Jeffrey scream for help and tried to pull him out of the earth's grasp but was unsuccessful.

Two years later, in August 2015, CNN reported that that same sinkhole reopened — 20 feet in diameter, reopening old wounds for the Bush family.

Of the recent wave of Ocala sinkholes, a resident of the Wynchase subdivision of Fore Ranch told WFTV ABC 9, "They just keep coming. Are we safe? We don't know. It's really scary," said Maren Pinder.

Residents have taken to calling the occurrences a "sinkhole fiasco," and geo-technical engineers are still trying to secure and test the holes, WCJB reports.

On April 25, the Ocala Police Department and Ocala Fire Rescue secured a sinkhole in the Fore Ranch neighborhood and said that that one could have been linked to a private irrigation water main break.

Can these sinkholes happen in South Florida?

Not to the same degree. Our geology is different than Central Florida's.

At the time of the 2013 Tampa tragedy, University of Miami geologist Don McNeill told the Miami Herald, “We do have sinkholes, but they’re different styles of sinkholes.”

He explained that our sinkholes in South Florida — known as dissolution holes and unlike the kinds in Central Florida, which most often result from erosion of underground caverns — occur as sand and sediment dissolves through dissolution holes in limestone rock. These are generally shallow and broad and develop over several days.

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