PALM HARBOR, Florida - It happened in an instant, and it was the last thing Elsie Hall was expecting.
The 88-year-old homeowner lives at 114 Harbor Drive in Palm Harbor on waterfront property in the tight-knit community of Ozona Shores.
"I was surprised," said Elsie when the ground beneath her buckled and cracked Tuesday morning.
Elsie's caregiver, Deborah Wicksten, called 911 immediately. "I was scared. We are okay now, though," said Deborah.
Ironically, when the cracking began in the foundation, it was Deborah who had an idea of what was happening right before her very eyes. "My husband works for a sinkhole company, EarthTech."
When Palm Harbor Fire Rescue Chief Dan Zinge arrived on scene, the first thought was certainly sinkhole related. There were all the classic signs. "We wanted to make sure after the catastrophic loss of life in Seffner than this did not happen here," said the chief. So, Elsie and her neighbors were evacuated from the home, which was built in 1972.
Turns out, after thorough examination, the sinkhole was merely a house settling. "This is common," said the chief. "We see this often."
A house built in the early seventies, he says, and one that sits on water is prone to settling and cracks in the foundation. "We do see it. But, in this case after the Seffner situation, we did want to take chances."
The area affected was roughly 12-by-20 feet of buckled tiles. The living room sustained the most damage. But, the house is otherwise fine and safe for residents.
Neighbors were certainly both nervous and curious when the media arrived en masse, along with helicopters flying over the neighborhood.
"After Seffner, everyone is afraid. We wanted to know what's going on. We're relieved everyone is okay," said Barb Owens while walking her dog.
Along with Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, both Elsie and her caregiver tell 10 News there is no sinkhole in the home. However, insurance adjusters were on scene to make the final determination. In addition, sinkhole experts were also at the house late Tuesday evening.
"She plans to have a party here for her 89th birthday in a few weeks," said Deborah about her close friend, Elsie. "She loves this house!"