Florida sinkhole swallows swimming pool
An enormous sinkhole opened up late October in a northwest Gainesville, Florida, neighborhood and has grown to over 100 feet. The sink hole has swallowed a swimming pool, a tree, a downed power pole and a gazebo, and forced the demolition of two homes.
Erin Robasciotti, a 36-year-old Gainesville resident, was helping her 11-year-old daughter to bed on October 22, 2020, when she heard a thunder-like noise from her backyard. She opened the screened sliding door of her home and was met with a massive sinkhole forming close to her backyard.
The sinkhole originally opened in the backyard of John Candiano, who watched his swimming pool cantilever over the edge for a week before it eventually slid in. Gainesville Fire Rescue crews worked to drain the roughly 15,000-gallon pool to prevent its collapse, to no avail.
“Today, (October 24) as the hole has continued to grow in size, it eventually has impinged on a swimming pool which has a lot of water, therefore weight. So, in coordination with the homeowner we’ve gotten permission to go ahead and pump that water off to try and remove some of that weight that is on top of the ground,” said Gainesville Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Hillhouse.
When Gainesville Fire Rescue initially investigated the scene after a 911 call from a resident, the sinkhole was 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep. The emergence prompted the city to recommend the evacuation of six homes in the neighborhood.
Alachua County geologists estimate the sinkhole has grown 15 feet in width per day. It is currently about 100 feet across and no one is sure how deep it is, although it was last estimated to be 30 feet. The Candianos, who got a good look at the hole, said they believed it to be much deeper than that.
Gainesville Regional Utilities workers went to the neighborhood when the sinkhole first opened, because of a natural gas leak. Unsure how long it would be before the then-smaller sinkhole could be repaired, they moved a natural gas line to ensure customers had gas.
Gainesville Fire Rescue crews installed a temporary fence around the edge of the sinkhole.
Gainesville City Commissioner David Arreola said the city is monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of the families who have evacuated.
“We’re here for them. They don’t have to face this situation alone. I would, however, advise every Florida family to look into sinkhole insurance,” Arreola said.
Candiano and his neighbors are at a loss for their next steps.
“We just need to know what to do,” Candiano said.
They have been working with their insurance agencies to try and figure out if they are covered in this situation. However, Candiano doesn’t have sinkhole coverage.
“I never even knew sinkhole coverage existed. It’s not like it was even offered to us.” He said he was told sinkholes were not common in the area. “According to one of the engineers here, it’s not prevalent. It’s more prevalent on the west side of 75.”
Robasciotti and her family are now homeless, staying in hotels and couch surfing at friends’ homes. Adding insult to injury, she lost her job at a local Mexican Restaurant which is closing permanently.
Meanwhile, Tom Berson, a 50-yearold Gainesville resident who lives in front of the sinkhole, has moved his belongings to storage. “All of the sudden you’re told you’re supposed to move in the middle of a pandemic with no idea where to move to. I didn’t have this on my 2020 bingo card, man.”
Sinkhole opens up and in falls a pool; Gainesville Fla., Photo credit to Alisa Rowe Kenny and ABC News.