Texans 'Terrified' as Dormant Sinkhole Awakens

Sinkhole in Daisetta, unchanged since 2008, suddenly grew 150 feet wider this month
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2023 12:08 PM CDT

A sinkhole in Texas was dormant for 15 years—until this month. Authorities in the small town of Daisetta say it began expanding April 2 and has since swallowed up several acres of land, "leaving nearby residents terrified that it will take them and their homes," NPR reports. Though no evacuation orders have been issued, footage shared by Bluebonnet News on Sunday shows deep cracks in the earth spreading out from a body of water in which buildings and other structures are partially submerged. The sinkhole first made headlines in 2008 after it grew from a 20-foot hole in the area of the DeLoach Oil and Gas Waste Well to one stretching some 900 feet across over two days.

"Eventually, the community learned to live with the giant hole in the ground, treating it as something of a recreational area," per NPR. Some residents even fished in the water-filled hole. Then early this month "my neighbor came over and said he kept hearing popping sounds like a gunshot," resident Tim Priessler told KTRK last week. "We went to the backyard, and there were buildings falling in. It was like a movie." The hole grew at least 150 feet wider, Liberty County Assistant Fire Marshal Nat Holcomb told the outlet. A vacant building and several storage tanks fell victim, per NPR, which notes the EPA is checking more storage tanks near the rim for hazardous materials.

Meanwhile, several agencies are working to determine why the hole suddenly began growing. Geologist Richard Howe, who investigated the sinkhole back in 2008, tells the Dallas Morning News that the salt dome on which the town is built began to dissolve, due in part to oil well drilling, creating a void beneath the ground's surface. New growth appears to be occurring in one area, which is in the opposite direction of a high school sitting 500 yards from the sinkhole's edge, per USA Today. Still, a woman who lives near the sinkhole told KTRK that she was having trouble sleeping for fear that she'll "get swallowed up." As Holcomb told the outlet, "sinkholes are extremely unpredictable. It can take a week to move one foot, or it can crumble 20 feet overnight." (More sinkhole stories.)

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