75-foot sinkhole forms on private property in Polk County, roads barricaded until further notice: Officials

Authorities with Polk County are monitoring a 75-foot sinkhole that formed off of Scott Lake Road, just south of Fitzgerald Road in southern Lakeland Friday afternoon. 

Officials with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Polk Fire Rescue and the county were all dispatched to the scene this afternoon. The sinkhole began forming Friday morning, but it continued to grow. 

Emergency officials are considering this an active sinkhole, which means it is not done growing yet. Authorities said it was about 75 feet wide and 120 feet deep.

Fire officials said they have notified the three homeowners that are close to the sinkhole of potential evacuations. Currently, there are no mandatory evacuations in place and no structural damage has been reported, fire rescue confirmed. 

Polk County deputies are also in the area assisting with traffic on Scott Lake Road. They have completely blocked off those roads and barricaded them to keep drivers away from the area.

The sinkhole isn't currently threatening the roadways, but officials said the vibrations from nearby traffic can cause it to collapse further which is why they closed it off. County officials said the road will remain barricaded off until the sinkhole has been stabilized. 

Workers with the developer are the ones currently working to get the sinkhole under control. While Polk County is monitoring the situation, they said the property owner will be largely in charge of fixing the hole because its on private property. 

County and fire officials said they will step in if the sinkhole grows further and starts threatening roadways in the area. 

Officials believe the sinkhole could be connected to a well that was recently drilled at the site. 

"We've been told when the well was being drilled about 180 feet down they broke through a hard layer," Jay Jarvis, the road and drainage director with Polk County, said during an afternoon briefing on the sinkhole. "And then there was pretty much a void down to 300 feet…then they started to see depressions start to occur."

Officials have not said when they expected the sinkhole to be stabilized. Drivers should expect to see barricades up on Scott Lake Road through Saturday. The Polk County Sheriff's Office has urged the public to stay away from the area while crews continue to work. 

Neighbors who live nearby and pass by this area every day said they noticed a small hole, but they said it spread extremely quickly.

"Like one day before we saw it forming, but they’re building a new neighborhood, so I thought it was part of it. Like a lake or retention pond. And then today, all of this happened, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it was a sinkhole,’" Neighbor Sandra Benavidez Carpenter said.

Authorities said the plan is to try and get equipment out to start back filling the hole. 

This sinkhole brings back memories from some of a similar situation in Lakeland 17 years ago. The hole that formed Friday is close to the spot where another massive sinkhole swallowed portions of Scott Lake back in June 2006. 

That hole damaged a lakefront home and took so much water out of Scott Lake that neighbors could see the bottom of it. The lake lost much of its volume within a few days.