Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
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Sinkhole swallows parts of two Dunedin houses


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DUNEDIN — A sinkhole has swallowed parts of two houses this morning and forced seven homes on Robmar Road to be evacuated.

There are no reports of injuries.

Seven homes on the street have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, and engineers are assessing the situation.

At 5:40 a.m., the residents at 1112 Robmar Road thought someone was breaking into their home, said Jeff Parks, chief of the Dunedin Fire Department.

Homeowner Michael Dupre was awakened by his daughter; they went out back and discovered the sinkhole at their back porch. The hole, which has grown since, now measures 45 feet in diameter and is 30 feet deep, Parks said. In addition to the porch, the sinkhole has also swallowed a 14-foot boat.

The sinkhole has also swallowed part of the master bedroom and an in-ground pool next door, at 1110 Robmar Road, Parks said.

The boat was at one point hooked up to a truck, but the boat was unhooked and the truck was saved, Parks said. Authorities are working to get a small front-end loader to pull the boat out so the fuel onboard doesn’t contaminate the groundwater, Parks said.

Neighbors say Robmar Road — in a middle-class neighborhood lined with ranch-style single-family homes, near Dunedin High School — has had problems with sinkholes. At one point, part of the street itself caved in.

Dupre’s family has been aware of the sinkhole problem, and a company has been pouring concrete for the past two days to try and forestall a collapse.

Three counties in the Tampa Bay area are known as “sinkhole alley.” Two-thirds of the sinkhole damage claims reported to the state Office of Insurance Regulation between 2006 and 2010 came from Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Dunedin is in neighboring Pinellas County.

Sinkholes are common in Florida because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks such as limestone that store and help move water underground. Over time, the rocks can dissolve from an acid created from oxygen in water, creating a void under the limestone roof. When dirt, clay or sand gets too heavy for the limestone roof, it can collapse, creating a sinkhole.

On Feb. 28, Jeffrey Bush died when a sinkhole opened under his bedroom in Seffner. His body was never recovered. In August, sections of a building at a resort near Orlando collapsed into a sinkhole but no one was injured.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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