Polk County officials closed off Scott Lake Road between Fitzgerald Road and Old Scott Lake Road for several hours Friday afternoon after a sinkhole opened very close to the site of a June sinkhole.

Ryan Taylor, deputy county manager over infrastructure divisions, said this sinkhole is in the same dry retention pond as the one in June. It is located farther west and farther away from Scott Lake Road, he said. He added that it measures about 55 feet wide and 12 feet deep – smaller than the first one, which was 80 feet wide and about as deep.

The first sinkhole was filled in by land owner Acres at Scott Lake LLC, which is building six homes in a new development on the property, located on Aiden Lane.  The road reopened to traffic after the sinkhole was filled in. The owners plan to begin backfilling the sinkhole Saturday if it remains stable, News Channel 8 reported.

Acres at Scott Lake, LLC is registered to Debra and Joseph Kedzuf of Lakeland, whose family owns Exxact Express trucking and logistics.

Another home is being built across the street and two more at the corner of Scott Lake Road and Old Scott Lake Road.

“Everything was fine, Taylor said. “It’s been stable since it was repaired back in June. This is the first indication of anything that’s changed.”

The June sinkhole threatened homes north of it in the Marina Cove subdivision, inching closer to a creek that divides the neighborhood from the retention pond, and swallowing a coconut palm. But Taylor said this latest hole is not a threat to any homes and they had not notified the neighbors.

“It seems to be maintaining its circumference right now,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t seem to be growing at any rate.”

Taylor said county officials received a call at about 11 a.m. Friday and dispatched Polk County Fire Rescue, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and county emergency management officials. He said because it’s on private property, the county’s involvement is “minimal” at this time as they monitor it.

“Should conditions threaten the roadway, public safety or public infrastructure, we will be prepared to intervene,” Taylor said.

A privately hired engineer was on scene Friday, assessing the stability of the sinkhole.

Ryan Taylor, deputy county manager over infrastructure divisions. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

It seems to be maintaining its circumference right now. It doesn’t seem to be growing at any rate.

deputy county manager ryan taylor

Taylor declined to speculate on what caused the latest sinkhole.  The June hole was said to have formed when a well was drilled and it hit a pressurized pocket, causing limestone rock above an underground river to collapse.  The underground river had dried out during a prolonged drought, causing the pocket, and then heavy substantial rains sat on top of the rock, pushing it down into the hollow area.

The hole is very close to an area where a sinkhole developed on June 15, 2006, and drained Scott Lake over a period of 10 days, leaving it dry by June 24, 2006. The shoreline receded at a rate of about 5 feet per day.

At the time, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials estimated that 800,000 pounds of fish died as a result. It was more than 10 years before the lake was refilled to its previous level.

Polk County is no stranger to sinkholes, with at least 244 confirmed events between 1954 and 2023. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection website explains the state is divided into 4 zones, based on the depth and solidity of the soil cover and the likelihood of sinkholes.

Lakeland and the surrounding communities are considered to be Area 3, in which sinkholes are most numerous and tend to develop abruptly. The most common type is “cover-collapse sinkholes.”

Sinkholes can happen any time of year, but they are most likely to occur when a drought is followed by heavy rain.

Lakeland saw a dry spell in July and August, followed by rains from Hurricane Idalia and then a downpour in the days after that.

Sinkholes often cause property damage, such as a hole that was 40 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 35 feet deep that opened on May 10, 1976, at the present-day intersection of Memorial Boulevard and North Lake Parker Avenue.

Another sinkhole appeared the following day, May 11, 1976, at Ingraham and Memorial. It was 80 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 25 feet deep.

Deadly sinkholes are much rarer, but there have been at least six deaths from sinkholes in Florida history. Among them, Seffner resident Jeffrey Bush was killed in February 2013 when a sinkhole opened below his bedroom around 11 p.m. while he was sleeping. His home collapsed, plummeting 20 feet underground. His body was never recovered.

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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