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More homes evacuated, homeowners worried after Leon County sinkhole opens

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 17:48:03-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The community is trying to move forward after a sinkhole in Tallahassee swallowed part of a mobile home and threatens to take more.

More people have been asked to the leave their homes as a precaution after a massive sinkhole opened up in a Tallahassee neighborhood.

The city of Tallahassee, contractors and environmentalists are now left to figure out what their next move will be.

"I don't sleep last night one minute," said Anwar El Khouri, who's home collapsed due to the sinkhole. "I get sleeping pill tonight to sleep."

Anwar El Khouri has a lot on his mind.

A sinkhole opened up in his front yard in Leon County on Tuesday evening. A day later, the hole opened up wide enough to sink his home.

"I'm homeless now. Homeless," El Khouri lamented.

El Khouri says Red Cross was able to give him money for food.

"My nephew help me," said El Khouri He send me $250."

And he's trying to get a loan at the bank to find a new home. While he figures how to move forward, his neighbors are keeping watch on what develops with the hole.

"Understandably, the neighbors are all concerned and they're wondering," said Abena Ojetayo, one of the neighbors.

To be on the safe side, code enforcement officers with the city of Tallahassee have asked another family that leaves near the sinkhole to evacuate while a temporary fence will hopefully keep others away.

"It seems like it could still be active. We're monitoring it ... especially with the rain event Friday," said Ojetayo.

While it is hard to say for certain, geologists and surveyors on site say they believe it's still active. The area is even unsafe for workers so they are using drones to try to measure the distance of the hole.

It's still too early to know just how deep this sinkhole is but the latest numbers suggest it goes down 70 feet. To put that into perspective, an entire semi-trailer and half of another one can fit inside it.

While this is new for the workers, sinkholes aren't uncommon in FLorida.

"Florida is underlain by limestone and limestone is calcium carbonate," said Rich Miller, a geologist. "They dissolve when they're with water."

Sinks usually have water underneath but if there's no water and you put weight on it, the ground is going to collapse.

This particular sinkhole is about 10 minutes away from Leon Sinks. That could play a role in its development.

"Simply because we're in close proximity, that's an indicator this could be more prone to collapse than where you don't see active sinkholes," Miller explained.

Now, workers have to figure out how to fill in the sinkhole without harming the groundwater underneath. And the people affected are let figuring out where they're going next.

The city and property owners are still monitoring the sinkhole, ready to move in once things are safe again.

"We're on standby," Ojetayo explained. "Folks are waiting for the proper timing and the right tools to get the job done."

Since the sinkhole is on private property, it's up to the owner of the mobile home park, to get it filled once it's safe to get close enough. That work could start as early as Friday.

Matt Hennessy, the manager of Capital Circle Pines Mobile Home Park, sent ABC 27 a statement saying in part:

"This is the first sinkhole we have experienced. We are very thankful no one was hurt or injured... We are currently working with top engineers who have informed us to begin filling the hole."