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Massive sinkhole swallows Florida home

A growing sinkhole has opened under Florida home.

A home in Hudson, Fla., along Florida's west coast, was ripped apart Wednesday after a massive sinkhole opened beneath it.

No one was inside the house, belonging to 79-year-old Susan Minutillo, when it quietly crumbled to the ground, neighbors said.

“You just look over there and the whole back end of the house just flipped right down into the hole,” neighbor Mike Richards told First Coast News in Jacksonville, Fla.

Ironically, Minutillo was having her home evaluated for the risk of sinkholes when the ground opened up. As crews were surveying her property, she stepped out to run an errand, and by the time she got home, about half of her house was already in the ground, according to Pasco County Fire Rescue crews.

A back bedroom, bathroom and sunroom were swallowed by the natural disaster, exposing the remaining parts of the house.

The home is a total loss, they said.


“She sort of laid her head on my shoulder and cried,” neighbor Dave Taylor told NBC affiliate WPTV in Tampa. “She took it pretty good considering her house had fallen through the ground.”

Neighbors said Minutillo is a widow and was living in the house alone. She's now staying with family.

City and utility crews immediately cordoned off her house, slapped condemned stickers on the front, removed the electric and gas hookups and warned people to stay clear.

Authorities say the hole is about the size of a two-car garage, measuring 20 feet by 40 feet across – big enough to put neighboring homes in jeopardy. Neighbors were ordered to evacuate.

Less than 10 feet from Minutillo’s home, Dave Taylor’s house has so far been unaffected by the sinkhole, but it could meet the same fate.

“If that house is still standing tomorrow, I’m not going to worry about this one,” Taylor told FCN News. “If that goes down, I’m going to start sweating.”  

“If that had happened at night time, it would have caved in and she would have been gone,” neighbor Mikey Delfreo told WPTV.

Neighbors said about half of the properties in the Beacon Wood Estates neighborhood have dealt with sinkhole issues.

Though relatively uncommon in the U.S., sinkholes occur most often Florida, Gerald Black, a geologist and vice president of Geohazards, Inc., an engineering firm specializing in geological evaluations in Gainesville, Fla., told msnbc.com.

“Florida certainly has a unique topography, but sinkholes are a relatively rare natural phenomenon,” Black said. “But even if it does happen, it’s not like you’re going to be instantly swallowed up.”

Black said sinkholes are common in Florida because the rock below the land surface is composed of limestone, calcium carbonate and other rocks that can be naturally dissolved by groundwater circulating through them. When the rock dissolves, spaces and caverns develop underground.

This, Black said, can happen over time or quite suddenly like it did with Minutillo’s home, and a sinkhole forms.

The weather may also have something to do with it, Black said, adding that Florida has recently received a lot of precipitation amid drought-like conditions, and the extra moisture has caused the rock to dissolve faster.  

As many as 150 sinkholes are reported in Florida each year.  

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