A sinkhole's impact on one family - WFLA News Channel 8

A sinkhole's impact on one family

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TARPON SPRINGS, FL (WFLA) -

Several stories here of late show when Florida's soil shifts, so do the lives around it - even years down the road. In March, there was the Seffner sinkhole that swallowed a man and killed him as he slept and just last week, another one took down part of a resort in Clermont.

But surviving a sinkhole is just the first part of the collapse that happens around families, both emotional and financial. Virginia Crawford, now 87, and her husband Nathaniel, 93, know all too well how trying the time can be.

"I'm thankful to God to keep me and my husband strong at the loss we had lost," Virginia said as she sat in her home, which is now in Holiday.

It was two years ago when the ground shifted in the back yard of their Tarpon Springs home, taking down a washroom about the size of a two-car garage. After the family evacuated the house, they noticed the soil was shifting in the front yard too. It wasn't long before another hole opened up there as well.

"I said, ‘God that's a traveling sinkhole'," Virginia remembers. "I never seen anything like that before."

Engineers determined what happened around the family's home on Disston Avenue was a catastrophic ground cover collapse.

"Next time if I had to go through that all over again - before I do anything ... I'd get me an attorney," said Earnest Crawford, Virginia's son.

Earnest says his parents received a check from their insurance company, but it didn't even come close to the expenses they were racking up. Adding to the hassle was trying to declare a value for everything in the house where they'd lived for about 60 years.

"Get a picture on everything you have in your house," Earnest suggested to other homeowners. "Get a name for everything you have on your property."

The proof of how complicated these things can get is still near Disston Avenue. The house is sitting exactly where it was two years ago. Money went to the new house and expenses and the family says it can't scrap up the $60,000 or so it would take to stabilize the old property and tear down the old house.

For now, Virginia and Nathaniel, who raised three generations in that house, have come to a realization.

"{We} Know that it was lost and gone and it wouldn't be peace no more there," Virginia said.

According to the website of Jeff Atwater:

  • Florida law requires authorized insurers to cover "catastrophic ground cover collapse," but damage caused by a sinkhole may not be covered by your policy.
  • That's because the law defines catastrophic ground cover collapse differently from sinkholes.
  • Florida law defines a sinkhole as "a land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution (the dissolving) of limestone or dolostone or by the subsidence as these strata are dissolved."
  • "Catastrophic ground cover collapse" is defined as "geological activity that results in all of the following: 1). The abrupt collapse of the ground cover; 2). A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye; 3). Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and 4). The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure."
  • This means that if your home is damaged by sinkhole activity, but does not meet all four criteria for catastrophic ground cover collapse - for instance, you may have foundation cracks, but the home is still livable - your insurance may not pay for the damage if you do not have sinkhole coverage.
  • All insurance companies licensed to do business must offer sinkhole coverage, usually as an addendum or rider to an existing policy, and for an additional premium charge.
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