POLK CITY – Iris Vega of Polk City was running errands when she got a frantic phone call from her family Thursday morning.
When she drove to her house on Burr Road she found a sinkhole had opened under her mobile home. The dry hole is 14 feet long, 15 feet wide and 17 feet deep, an official for the Polk County Building Division said.
The sinkhole didn’t swallow Vega’s home, and her family got out safely. As officials assessed the hole Thursday afternoon, Vega, 62, was still unsure of what she was going to do. Officials advised the family not to go back in the house.
“I couldn’t get my clothes or medications,” she said in Spanish. “Everything is there, we couldn’t save anything.”
Paul Womble, the emergency management program manager at Polk County Fire Rescue, said officials received the call about the sinkhole about 3 p.m. He said it appears the cords anchoring the structure were destroyed.
Part of the concrete sidewalk under a ramp was swallowed by the hole that extended to about three quarters of the house.
Polk County sheriff’s deputies walked through the neighborhood off of County Road 557A, south of Interstate 4, to inform residents about the sinkhole. No other houses reported damage.
Vega lives in the home with her husband, Juan Rodriguez, 76, and her 27-year-old grandson, Jesuan Rosa. One of her sons and his two children from New Jersey were visiting the family.
Rosa said after he woke up he looked under a wheelchair ramp connected to the house and thought he saw a puddle of water. He got closer and saw the concrete stairs that once led to the back door were gone and a huge hole was forming under the house.
“I woke up everyone and got out,” he said.
Vega said they’ve lived in the house for about nine years and didn’t have any previous problems. About three weeks ago, they painted the mobile home a bright yellow.
On Wednesday night, the family was in the living room and heard a loud noise that some family members thought was thunder and others said sounded like a loud thump coming from the floor.
By Thursday they were all convinced that the hole must have started to open up then.
“It’s an expense that you don’t expect,” Vega said in Spanish. “Our economic situation isn’t good so that something like this happens to us.”
The Polk County Building Division deemed the house unsafe and the structure was wrapped with bright red tape with the word “DANGER.”
“We are on the street,” Vega said. “We are without anything.”
The American Red Cross arrived Thursday afternoon to assist the family.
Vega said she isn’t sure what’s going to happen to their home or whether they will be able to live in it again.
Insurance representatives were scheduled to go to the home today to assess the damage.