Scott and Robin Spivey had a sinking feeling that something was wrong with their home when cracks began snaking across their walls in March. The cracks soon turned into gaping fractures, and within two weeks their 600-square-foot garage broke from the house and the entire property dropped 10 feet below the street. It wasn't long before the houses on both sides collapsed as the ground gave way in the Spiveys' neighborhood in Lake County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco.
Eight homes are now abandoned and 10 more are under notice of imminent evacuation as a hilltop with sweeping vistas of Clear Lake and the Mount Konocti volcano swallows the subdivision built 30 years ago. Officials believe water that has bubbled to the surface is playing a role in the destruction. But nobody can explain why suddenly there is plentiful water atop the hill in a county with groundwater shortages. "That's the big question," says the county public works director. "We have a dormant volcano, and I'm certain a lot of things that happen here (in Lake County) are a result of that, but we don't know about this." (Read more California stories.)