What started as a small crack quickly grew into a devastating blow for a Central Florida couple who watched a sinkhole swallow part of their home on Tuesday.
“The sound was hard to believe. It was very, very loud. The windows cracked breaking. It was hard to watch,” Ellen Miller, who had lived in the Apopka home with her husband, Gary, for five decades, told Fox 35 Orlando. “Fifty years, both of my girls came home from the hospital there.”
It was just 24 hours earlier that the 69-year-old grandmother said they first noticed a small crack in the sidewalk behind her home. During a closer inspection, she saw that the house appeared to be sinking and the wall’s stucco was separating.
They figured they’d have a professional take a look the next day, but during the early morning hours, the walls started to open.
“I wasn’t sure what all the sounds were until I got up and saw the big, huge cracks in the walls, and they were just enormous,” she told News 6 Orlando.
Along with relatives who had come over to help, they scrambled to gather whatever items they could while exiting the home. Not everything could be retrieved, however, including their original wedding bands, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“Crying is not going to do any good. It’s not going to bring anything back,” Miller told Fox 35.
The catastrophe came a little more than a week after Hurricane Irma swept across the Sunshine State, carrying powerful winds and flooding certain areas.
Devo Seereeram, a sinkhole consultant and engineer for Orange County, noted that storms are a big trigger for sinkholes, which are especially common in limestone-lined areas, like where the Millers live.
“It provides the water to push that sand into the cavities and cause the collapse,” Seereeram told the Sentinel. “Water is a very big driving force.”
The Millers told WFTV that they plan to stay with their adult daughter, who lives next door, until they figure out what to do next.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, around 20 percent of the U.S. lies in areas that are susceptible to sinkholes, with the most damage seen in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
There are two types of sinkholes. Some can develop abruptly, in just hours, and others form slowly and can be less noticeable.
“It is recommended that people constantly observe their property for things such as small holes in the ground or cracks formed in a structure’s foundation,” the USGS’s website recommends. “People can also check to see if they live in areas underlain by soluble rock, and they can do so by checking with county offices, local or state geological surveys, or the USGS.”