- The sinkhole in Dyseta, Texas, grew over 150 feet in width and depth this week
- Residents said they packed up and parked their cars to escape if necessary
- Authorities said there was nothing they could do to stop the sinkhole from collapsing
A massive sinkhole in southeast Texas that first grabbed headlines by threatening homes in 2008 began collapsing again over the weekend, swelling to more than 1,000 feet wide and 400 feet deep overnight.
After years of stability, the rim of the Daiseta sinkhole began to crumble again on Sunday night, after residents reported hearing a crack “like a gunshot” coming from the ground hours earlier.
Neighbors went to bed Sunday night and awoke to find the hole growing, and has since grown about 150 feet in both width and depth.
The sinkhole first terrorized the neighborhood 15 years ago when it started as a 20-foot hole, but soon became a crater about 900 feet in diameter and 250 deep. As it grew, it swallowed cars, oil tanks and power lines and caused extended shutdowns of roads in the small town.
Experts believe the hole was caused by the erosion of a large salt dome – a large underground deposit of salt – on which Daisetta was built.
Images from Daisetta showed a large metal tank falling into the hole and even a building beginning to teeter over the edge. Authorities said the metal tanks were empty and did not pose a risk, but said they were investigating whether other nearby tanks should be moved.
Neighbors woke up on Monday morning, surprised to see the hole that had grown so suddenly overnight.
“We never thought it would start again,” neighbor Linda Hoover told KTRK. “When we bought our house a few years ago, we were convinced it was stabilized.”
Other neighbors said they don’t sleep well at night for fear their homes might start to collapse beneath them overnight.
“Last night I had a lot of trouble sleeping because I didn’t know if we were going to be swallowed up. My family told me it happened pretty quickly before,” Jordana Pressler said.
Tim Pressler recalled the dramatic experience of watching the hole begin to reopen.
“My neighbor came over and said he kept hearing popping sounds like a gunshot,” he said. We went to the backyard and there were buildings falling. It was like a movie. You can see cracks forming in the ground.
Hoover said she and her family packed their bags and positioned their cars so they could flee immediately if the sinkhole began to threaten their home.
“My biggest fear is that it will catch us in the night. So that’s why we really haven’t been able to sleep,” she said. “We packed our luggage just in case and parked our cars kind of funny. So we can get out of here in a hurry if we have to.
Fire officials serving Daisetta said there was nothing to be done about the sink holes and that they were a force of nature that did whatever it wanted, according to KTRK.
“Sinkholes are extremely unpredictable,” said Liberty County Assistant Fire Marshal Erskine Holcomb. “It can take a week to move one foot, or it can crumble 20 feet overnight.”
Daisetta officials said no evacuations are necessary at this time.
“City officials immediately contacted the offices of the Liberty County Judge, the Liberty County Fire Marshal and the Texas Department of Emergency Management and notified residents in the immediate vicinity of the situation,” the city said in a statement. “City officials are closely monitoring the situation and will work with state and local authorities to provide updates to the community as the situation progresses.”
Salt domes occur when an underground layer of salt collects in a large column underground, forming a dome shape just below ground level.
If the salt erodes, it opens up caves in the dome that can collapse and create holes.