After celebrating her birthday Monday night, Suzanne Blumenauer returned to her home near Winter Park to discover her pool fractured, empty and sinking into the ground.
“I must be dreaming,” Blumenauer said. “I didn’t know what to think.”
Orange County officials aren’t sure what to think either — but they’ve declared her home unsafe and are monitoring the area closely.
County building inspectors were at the 2300 Roxbury Road home Tuesday investigating the hole that swallowed part of Blumenauer’s backyard and cracked her swimming pool hours earlier.
The hole — 40 to 50 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet deep — had apparently stabilized by early Tuesday.
“We don’t even know if it is a sinkhole,” Robert Amato, Orange County building inspector, said Tuesday. “It doesn’t look like it moved since yesterday.”
By late Tuesday, county officials hadn’t determined whether the opening is a sinkhole — they are waiting for a geologist’s report. Surrounding property owners have been notified of the danger, but no additional evacuations have been suggested, said Allen Plante, a county building official.
Orange County Fire Rescue first arrived at the home, which is steps from Lake Killarney, at 8:30 p.m. Monday, Battalion Chief Billy Richardson said.
Tuesday morning, the edge of the hole was 20 feet from the back door, and Blumenauer opted to stay with a friend. County officials deemed the property “unsafe to occupy” Tuesday.
Another home at the rear of the property could be threatened, too, Richardson said. Building inspectors taped off additional areas on both properties Tuesday morning in case additional ground fell.
“You wonder how big it will eventually get,” said Jim Frank, who moved into the neighborhood about a month ago.
Neighbors speculated that the hole could be related to a lengthy construction project on Lake Killarney. A pickup with a towering piece of equipment on the back was parked behind an orange construction fence at the edge of the lake.
The truck belongs to county contractor Henderson Wilder Contractor of Orange County, whose services include providing soil stabilization for sinkhole repair.
“My only role is to do what the geologist told me to do,” said Henderson Wilder, 79, owner of the company. “We are pulling our rod out and are on standby until they tell us what to do.”
County officials called Wilder on Monday night, he said, and told him to remove his equipment Tuesday. For the past week, his crews have been working for the county, installing several drainage wells near the lake, he said.
Neighbors said they feel vibrations in their homes when the equipment is running.
Manoj Chopra, a University of Central Florida civil-engineering professor, thinks the increased rainfall in the area may have caused the sinkhole.
“I’m not surprised at all, ” Chopra said. “That area is very prone to sinkholes.”
The possible sinkhole is only 11/2 miles from the infamous 1981 Winter Park sinkhole that swallowed a car dealership and home in its 320-foot-wide and 90-foot-deep opening. The area is now Lake Rose near Fairbanks Avenue and South Denning Drive.
The hole on Roxbury Road remains under investigation. The county was still waiting for soil tests and additional reports from geologists, Plante said.
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