A sinkhole opened up Thursday at a property near DeLeon Springs, swallowing a tree and part of a fence, said an official with the Cooperative Extension Service of Volusia County and the University of Florida.
“It’s a good-size hole, but I have seen bigger,” said Dave Griffis, a scientist with the agricultural extension office.
According to Volusia County Sheriff’s Office dispatch logs, the sinkhole appeared suddenly at 11:31 a.m. at 4733 Mills Road. A caller to a dispatcher said the hole was 30 feet deep and 30 to 50 feet wide.
The sinkhole brought down a tree, part of a horse fence and power lines.
The property owner, who would only identify himself as Jerry, said he watched as the tall oak tree tumbled into the sinkhole.
No homes are threatened by the sinkhole, which is not anticipated to get any larger, Griffis said.
Griffis said he was called by the Volusia County Fire Services and the property owner and told of the sinkhole. Griffis will visit the site Friday to assess the situation because there was no immediate need to go there Thursday, he said.
“I do not anticipate the hole to get any larger than the initial collapse,” Griffis said. “Generally, the initial collapse is it.”
Sinkholes occur periodically in Florida due to changing water levels, Griffis said.
Drought and overpumping can bring down the water level, causing the underground walls of cavities or caverns to cave in, Griffis.
“They occur in the Karst topography,” Griffis said. “This is the underground limestone that has cavities or caverns filled with water. The water holds the walls in place but when the level drops, there is no pressure holding up the walls and it collapses.”
Sinkholes occur suddenly and do not take weeks or months to occur, Griffis said.
Volusia County Engineer Gerald Brinton described the caverns and cavities underground “like swiss cheese.”
“They are all over the place and and the closer you get to Hillsborough County, they are worse,” Brinton said.
Although they happen periodically, the last large sinkholes in Volusia County occurred in Deltona in December 2005 and in Orange City in January 2005, Brinton said.
One occurred a few months ago in DeLand, Griffis said.
“If they happen on private property they become a landowner concern and many do not make the press,” Griffis said. “Most of the time they are very small.”