TAMPA, Florida — Another day, another sinkhole alert. This time it was in Tampa, where a man reported a hole opening up in his front yard.
Some question whether it’s a sinkhole at all, and it may indicate a sense of panic taking place in the Bay Area.
The home in the 7200 Block of Trinity Place in Tampa is just a couple of blocks away from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Three weeks ago Derrick Bullard, 31, was raking the leaves in his front yard when suddenly, “I fell backwards in it,” he said.
“I called the county after I saw what happened in Seffner. I started getting a little freaked out,” said Bullard.
The “it” Derrick stumbled into was a hole — just a few inches wide — but as he demonstrated with a stick, it’s at least four feet deep. Home video shows it expanding outward even farther below the surface.
The house, which Derrick rents with his mom, has a documented history of sinkhole issues dating back a couple of years, so at first he didn’t think to call anyone. But after seeing what happened to Jeff Bush last week, he started worrying.
He says, “Pretty much the same thing could happen to me, and I didn’t want it to happen.”
Hillsborough County inspectors say they’re getting an increased number of calls from people like Derrick, who are concerned a depression or hole on their property may be another deadly sinkhole. But even with cracks in the walls and a huge soft spot in the backyard, inspectors think erosion at Bullard’s house is likely from a water line break just a few feet from the front yard hole. It was only fixed a couple of days ago, and may have been gushing underground for weeks.
That’s reason enough for neighbors like Rob Curie to say they want to wait and see before worrying too much.
“Not until something happens. I mean, I’m not concerned,” said Currie.
But Lee Watkins, whose home backs up to Bullard’s, said it worries him a lot. After seeing what happened in Seffner last Friday, he wouldn’t blame anyone for calling whoever can check it out ASAP.
“You know, this is Florida. If there’s probably one over there and there’s one there, you know if it’s in the area,” said Watkins, “You know, it’s limestone. We’re sitting on top of limestone, and when it washes away, it’s gone.”
Don’t expect the number of calls to slow down any time soon. A California company that keeps track of sinkholes said Florida is number one with about 15,000 of them. Two dozen of those are within a mile of the sinkhole that took Jeff Bush’s life.