Florida woman escapes sinking home

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities in Pinellas County are still not saying whether a sinkhole is what forced a woman out of her home in Palm Harbor after she heard a loud cracking sound.

County officials do confirm there is sinking at the home with cracks in the walls and a crack in the pool, which is also leaking water into the ground.

The homeowner’s insurance company will need to bring in a structural engineer to officially determine whether it’s a sinkhole.

On Wednesday afternoon, authorities confirmed the home is uninhabitable. At the moment, firefighters say no other structures appear to be in danger.

The woman who lives at the home on East Dorchester Road in the Highland Estates subdivision called 911 late Tuesday night.

“Something’s happening in my house. The molding is coming down off the ceiling,” she said in the 911 call. “There’s cracking going on and everything.”

“I woke up and there’s all kinds of noise going on in the house and the crown molding is coming away,” she continues. “There’s cracks in the floor and in the walls. I gotta get outside.”

She evacuated while she was on the phone with a dispatcher waiting for emergency crews to arrive.

Firefighters with Palm Harbor Fire Rescue have been at the home ever since to monitor the situation at the home.

They say the home has sunk about five inches since they arrived Tuesday night. The house is blocked off to keep people out. Fire officials have placed signs around the home that say “Unsafe, do not enter or occupy.”

The most visible problem areas are right inside the house and then the sidewalk in the front of the home, as well as several cracks on the outside part of the house. The baseboards on the walls inside the home have started to separate. There is a large crack in her pool out back and the pool is currently leaking water into the ground which is clearly not helping this situation.

Firefighters have been walking through the home every half hour to check for new cracks and settlement.

Right now, crews are not able to determine what is causing the cracking and sinking. It could be a sinkhole, or it could be organic material settling underneath the house.

Engineers are expected to be on scene later in the morning. The Pinellas County Building Inspector will inspect the home.

The woman who lives in the home was able to get some clothes and personal items and is staying with a friend.

As far as the neighbor’s safety goes, if cracks start to spread into the yard and the sides of the house, crews will evacuate neighbors as well.

Steve Berg, lives on the other side of the possible sinking house. He says he’s worried, “I have noticed when I mow the lawn in between our houses that there is an area that feels spongy. I’m concerned.”

Joyce Jordan lives next door. She also heard a loud noise last night. Jordan now has several cracks in her house, however, firefighters have deemed it safe for now.

“Terrible! Terrible. For her and for us. It’s pretty scary,” said Jordan. “We are supposed to go on vacation Sunday. I’ll have to pray about it.”

Red Cross is on alert in case an evacuation is necessary, according to a PHFR spokesperson.