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Dunedin sinkhole stabilizes, families watch demolition in shock

8:29 PM, Nov 15, 2013   |    comments
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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In Dunedin, the property where a sinkhole-damaged house stood on Thursday is now a flattened lot.

The Dupre home was demolished in a matter of hours and now city engineers are racing against the clock and Mother Nature to get that sinkhole filled as much as they can.

The weather was expected to get worse heading into Saturday, so officials changed their game-plan. Instead of taking time to tear down two houses on Friday, they brought down one, and will now spend as much time as they can filling in the sinkhole.

If it remains stabilized, they will bring down house number two on Saturday.

The Dupre family -- who yesterday had shared their harrowing stories of survival and frustration over a two-year insurance battle -- were at a loss for words today, watching from across the street as their home was reduced to rubble.

"There's a lot more that actually you wanted to get, but unfortunately... maybe they'll find something when they're going through it," said the 13-year-old daughter, Ivy.

Officials say they have no choice but to take down the home and the one next door.

The massive sinkhole that had continued to widen into the night finally seemed to stabilize earlier Friday morning, but not before the damage had been done.

"It's emotionally devastating," said Elvira Oakes, who couldn't bear to watch.

Her house will be the next to go.

For 19 years, Elvira and her husband made their life and home here. In 19 hours, it was all but gone. Their foundation may have been shaken, she says, but not their faith.

"Everything's gonna be OK. It's hard. But everything's gonna end up OK. We're gonna look for the blessing in all of this," said Oakes.

GRAPHIC: Florida's Sinkholes (PDF)

Through the day an excavator chewed away at the house. Scraps were dropped into dumpsters. Then a long line of dump trucks filled with dirt were brought in to fill the gaping hole left behind.

"We feel the hole is stabilized so we're not really as worried as we were yesterday," said Dunedin Fire Chief Jeff Parks.

"Too close for comfort. Way too close for comfort," said neighbor Jared Williams.

Williams and others sure hope the plan works.

He brought us into his back yard and showed us how the sinkhole appeared to have stopped just a few feet short of his home.

"We find ourselves tip-toeing around the house now. You tread a little lightly, but... you know there's nothing you can do besides pray," he said.

If they're right and the hole is stabilized, they believe the Dupre and Oakes homes will be the only two homes demolished.

They plan to sift through the rubble at a recycling center and return any valuables they can salvage to the families. 

So far the rain had been light and hasn't affected their ability to work.

The goal was to get enough dirt into the sinkhole before it starts raining any heavier and potentially destabilizing the sinkhole again.


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