The sight of three sinkholes opening up in a Port Richey neighborhood was shocking to residents who live nearby.

The holes are all in the Gulf Highlands subdivision, off U.S. 19 south of State Road 52.

“It just blew my mind, blew my mind,” said Port Richey resident Joel Bourgois.

Rob Cox, who lives right across from the homes on Neva Lane and Zimmerman Road, was the one who spotted the nine-foot deep hole in the front yard of one of houses. And that wasn’t the only hole forming, another hole about 20 feet deep opened up at the back of the same house.

Cox quickly alerted crews who originally were out there working on filling a four-foot deep hole found on the side of the home two doors down.

“They turned around and looked and they were like oh my god. They came over and they got the lady out of the house and moved her car before it got sucked into the hole,” said neighbor Rob Cox.

Crews were back Saturday filling all three holes. Engineer Darrell Hanecki said the holes have been stabilized and there is no need to worry.

“We really didn’t feel like there was any reason to be alarmed about the general neighborhood," said Hanecki.

Ten families were asked to evacuate Friday but only six chose to leave. Saturday, four of those six families will return.

The families of the homes where the holes opened up will remain evacuated until crews check and evaluate the holes Monday and rule the area as safe.

What causes sinkholes?

Sinkholes are depressions or a collapse of the land surface as the limestone below cracks and develops fractures. Acidic waters seeping through the soil lead to the breakdown over long periods of time.

While these types of events often occur after a high accumulation of rainfall in a brief period of time, they can also take place in extremely dry conditions, as the water table below the surface drops or dries out.


Sinkhole Warning Signs

There are several signs you can watch for that may lead to the formation of a sinkhole:

  • Fresh exposure on fence posts, foundations and trees that result when the ground sinks
  • Slumping, sagging or slanting fence posts, trees or other objects
  • Doors and windows that fail to close properly
  • Ponding: Small ponds of rainfall forming where water has not collected before
  • Wilting of small, circular areas of vegetation, because the moisture that normally supports vegetation in the area is draining into a developing sinkhole below the surface
  • Turbidity in water in nearby wells
  • Structural cracks in walls, floors and pavement
  • Cracks in the ground surface

Think you might have a sinkhole?

If you think you have a sinkhole on your property:

  • Mark and secure the hole. Keep children and pets away.
  • If the hole is directly affecting the house, stay outside of the dewlling.
  • Call your property insurance adjuster and report it immediately.
  • If the sinkhole causes extensive camage, contact your county's Office of Emergency Management.

If a sinkhole opens in a nearby road:

  • Call the local law enforcement agency immediately.
  • If the road is private, repair is the responsibility of the landowner or the property owner's association.

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection