That Sinking Feeling

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By: Matt Galka

A freak accident in March where a Central Florida man was swallowed up by a sinkhole while in bed has many thinking, 'could that happen to me?'

In the wake of the unthinkable tragedy about four hours south of the big bend, WCTV reporter, Matt Galka talked to one local woman who is afraid it could be a matter of time before the same thing happens on her property

Floridians are familiar with the seemingly sudden openings in the earth called sinkholes, but what if you're not from Florida. That's the problem Jennifer Moreen faced.

“About four months after I moved into my house I had what i would consider a large sinkhole open up just off the corner of my additional two car garage,” Jennifer Moreen, Crawfordville Homeowner, said. “I'm from Kansas, I’m not from this area originally; I didn't know what a sinkhole was until I had this experience.”

Moreen moved to the park subdivision in Crawfordville three years ago. She says that after the sinkhole near Tampa swallowed Jeff Bush in March, new fears for her family's safety began to arise.

"It’s scary,” Moreen said. “We have kids in the neighborhood, what if the kids walking through the neighborhood and we have these chimney shoots open up and it swallows one of our kids."

"There are points in my yard that you actually sink when you walk," explains Moreen.

The Wakulla County Planning and Zoning Division has to approve land before it can be developed. They say they would not have approved the land if it wasn't up to code.

“Part of the site development process is they have to identify the natural features of the property so they have to identify known sinkhole features,” Luis Serna, Wakulla County Planning and Community Development, said.

Soil samples are taken in the lots of property that are going to be sold. If sinkhole activity is found, there has to be a 100 ft. buffer zone from the sinkhole to where structures can be built.

Unfortunately that doesn't really help Moreen now.

"There should be more laws put into place where somebody goes to build in a neighborhood that there's more testing that should be required where there are areas with known activity," Moreen said.

Florida geologists say that you can never be 100 % sure when or where sinkhole activity will occur, but there is a tool that could help educate potential new home buyers.

FloodInsights does flood zone assessments for FEMA. They also have sinkhole mapping for the state of Florida.

For $4.95, a customer can research a property they might buy to see if there is sinkhole activity.

Jennifer Moreen said that her insurance deductible for sinkholes has skyrocketed from $1,000 to $18,000. She says she has been told by the developer and the county there's nothing that can be done for her.

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