SINKHOLE IN THE VILLAGES

THE VILLAGES – SUMTER COUNTY – CHALMER TERRACE

Neighbor Linda Wiernasc told the local TV station, “I think it’s terrible, I do… I think it’s terrible, but this is the Villages… and we take care of each other.”

Linda Wiernasc-neighbor

I was watching a local Indianapolis television station when I noticed this story about the Villages. This story about The Villages, one thousand miles away, captured my full attention. For as a lot of you know I’m considering moving from Indianapolis to The Villages which is located in central Florida.

The story is as follows, as the news media sensationalized, two houses in The Villages were teetering (did you get that – Teetering) on the edge a sinkhole that opened up between them. The houses are located on Chalmer Terrace, near St. Charles Place, The Villages.

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One home had people living in the home the other home was vacant and the owners living currently in Alabama. So now we have this basic story line.

Giovanni Velocci said he left his home Saturday morning for his normal morning walk.

“This morning I got out about twenty to seven, everything looked normal,” Velocci said.

But in the hour and a half he was gone, a sinkhole opened up across the street from his home. When he came back from his walk about 8:25, the tree next to the house across the street was missing and I thought maybe somebody stole the tree, Velocci said. “Then I noticed the hole.”

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“There was somebody inside one of the houses, I went to see him. He said he had no water,” Velocci said.” I told him you gotta get out of the house because something is wrong here.”

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Officials with Helicon Property Restoration are at the scene and are expected to be there throughout Saturday night into Sunday morning to fill the hole. No other homes have been evacuated, but officials said if the sinkhole spreads more people could be asked to leave. Sumter County deputies said the hole opened up about three weeks ago and a special team from Tampa was brought in to fill the hole. They said the hole opened up again last night because of heavy rain in the last couple of days and the sink hole grew in size. No one was injured.

The project manager for the company now trying to fill the sinkhole said the homeowners noticed some ground giving way back in January. Crews have been working for the last two weeks to stabilize the area.

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Workers spent Saturday dumping 15 truckloads of concrete into the hole and “hadn’t put a dent in it,” Carpenter said. “It’s just continuing to grow,” he said. The Villages is a sprawling 55-and-older community that straddles Sumter, Lake and Marion counties. The sinkhole is on the Sumter side. The rainy season, which is starting in Florida, increases the chance of sinkholes, experts say. “It’s Florida,” Carpenter said. “There are sinkholes everywhere.”

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“We were working on it yesterday,” said Rich Kay, one of the project managers. “But the magnitude of what we’re seeing here today, even as the engineers were testing, we had no idea what we would be dealing with here today.”

Kay said it appears the ground around this sinkhole has stabilized, but he wasn’t sure how long it would take to fill the sinkhole. Crews worked through the night and continue to work into Sunday morning.

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Each area of the country, have their own natural disasters, from forest fires, earth quakes, mud slides, tornados, hurricanes and now pesky sinkholes in Florida. So what are the chances of sinkhole activity in Florida? If I’m going to live in The Villages tell what I need to know.

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First, I was told by a Villager not to panic. “There are just too many scare tactics from the public when something like this happens, this is Florida folks. Elderly people panic and paranoia sets in.” I was told that some people living in The Villages have so much anger and cynicism, toward one another and events that happen in The Villages. “Don’t worry about what negative people may say about The Villages.”

Remember now, I was told The Villages is Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown.

Should I be concerned about moving to Florida and the Villages with a high probability of sinkhole activity? I shouldn’t worry? Is that a recipe for successful living in The Villages? Not to worry or even give consideration to sinkhole activity?

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People smarter than I say, in Florida, the water table is very high and close to the surface – sometimes just 10 feet down. In the Northwest of the United State it’s much lower – it can be hundreds of feet beneath the surface.

But the water table is just part of the equation when it comes to sink holes. It also depends on what kind of soil and bedrock is underground. Other parts of the country are sitting on limestone, salt or gypsum – rock that dissolves much easier in water.

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In Florida, the ground used to be filled with water – enough to hold up the land on top of it. But over the years, swamps have been drained and that’s left a big problem.

“They’ve lowered the ground water table to make some of the land more productive,” said Scott Burns, a geology professor at Portland State University. “You build something on top of it – if the weight is there it just falls through.”

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About the author

Stephen A and Scott Duncan publish “ByDuncan.com”
Scott photographs (Duncan Photography) and is the guy who keeps this site running.
Steve (left) is a photographer (Duncan Photography) and writes to “ByDuncan.com”