APOPKA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida family will soon be searching for a new place to gather after their home of nearly five decades was lost to a sinkhole.
Elena Hale said cracks began appearing in the wall of her grandparents' Apopka home Monday night, and the wall was separating from the ceiling when they woke early Tuesday morning. A hole in the yard grew larger as the morning went on, and the bottom of the house was starting to sag by 11 a.m.
"By that point, my grandparents had the fire department there, so they helped them move a lot of the furniture toward the front of the house so that we could get it out," Hale said. "And then it was just a matter of time, to be honest. The sinkhole was growing rapidly."
The back section of the house eventually collapsed into the sinkhole. Ellen and Garry Miller have moved to a hotel while they figure out what to do next, but rebuilding the condemned house doesn't seem to be an option.
"My grandparents don't want to live on the property any longer, because they just don't feel comfortable being there," Hale said. "It was pretty hard on both of them."
Hale said she's glad that rescue workers from Orange County Fire Rescue were able to help her grandparents save a lot of their belongings, especially personal items. But she said she'll miss having the home, where her grandparents have lived since 1969, as a gathering place for her family, with her aunt living right next door and her mother living just a few minutes away.
"I'm 20, and I've spent every Christmas Eve at that house since I was born," Hale said. "It's a point of family contact. It's definitely going to be hard to get used to not having the house in the family."
Hale said her grandparents will probably buy another home in the area. They're responsible for filling in the sinkhole, but Hale said their insurance company seems to be looking at Hurricane Irma's passing earlier this month as a potential cause for the sinkhole. The hole measured about 20 feet (6 meters) across and 10 feet (4.6 meters) deep on Tuesday, but Hale said it's actually still growing.
"We're really concerned about the houses next door, because you never really know what's going on underneath," Hale said.
Hale has set up a page for her grandparents on a crowdfunding site to help cover some of the expenses of finding a new home in the near future.
"It's still very hard on them to realize that what was there home for so many years is now underneath the ground and unsalvageable," Hale said.
Apopka is in central Florida, about 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of Orlando. A second sinkhole opened up down the street from the Miller's home Thursday, but it wasn't an immediate threat to any homes.