Sinkhole swallows Pinellas family's front yard

6:11 PM, May 27, 2010   |    comments
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Dunedin, Florida -- Colin and Judi Niven say their lives have been ordinary... up until Wednesday night when they found a sinkhole swallowing up their front yard as they returned home from dinner with friends.

"I was just shocked.  I was kind of amazed, because I just watched the arbor being sucked into this hole and it kept growing and growing and just imploding," Judi Niven told 10 Connects.

The sinkhole isn't a complete surprise.  The Nivens were in the process of having their home pinned and grouted due to sinkhole activity on their property. But they never expected one to actually open up and nearly take their house with it.

Photo Gallery: Sinkhole opens up in Dunedin

"It's amazing," said Judi as she eyed the hole which was last measured at eight feet deep and 15 feet wide.

While it appears to be stabilizing according to engineers, the hole is too close for comfort, mere feet away from the Nivens' front door.

The home has not been condemned, but it is not safe to live in, so the family says they are working with their insurance company to find temporary housing.

An insurance company representative says the repair work may have disturbed the ground, causing the sinkhole.  While this is rare, it happens.

Engineers filled the hole with five truck loads of dirt to prevent the house from falling in, but it's not going to be a permanent fix. 

The Nivens say they now have two choices before them:  repair the sinkhole or let the insurance company buy the house from them.

"We'll take the weekend to decide," said Colin Niven.

The couple tells 10 Connects it's not going to be an easy choice, since they've spent the last nine years building their lives in the Park Circle South home.

The Nivens aren't alone. 

"There's been a sinkhole in that house," pointed Colin, "Our next door neighbor has a sinkhole and the house behind there was a sinkhole.  Our was the one that opened up."

The entire neighborhood has been riddled with sinkhole activity since the late 1980's according to the Nivens and their insurance company.

Laura Kadechka, 10 Connects

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