PLANT CITY, Fla. - When the cold weather rolls in and farmers pump ground water to protect their crops from frost, Austin Creel gets nervous. Four sinkholes opened in his neighborhood last year around this time.
"Here's where it really started," said Creel, pointing to a pipe on the side of his Plant City home in the Walden Lake subdivision. "Not until after the fact, when really they started pumping did I start to have a problem," he told ABC Action News. "Walked in a back bedroom to get a package and walked into water so, busted a main water line," he went on to say.
But the broken water line under his home's foundation was the least of his problems. "I am on a sinkhole, according to the survey," Creel said.
Now, one year after unprecedented cold weather and record-low aquifer levels, the homeowner is still mired in a sinkhole lawsuit with his insurance company. And farmers are getting ready to turn on the sprinklers again tonight.
"We're all neighbors," said strawberry farmer David Spivey. He says his well went dry last year too along with many other homeowners in the Plant City and Dover area.
Spivey says he doesn’t think this year will be as cold for as long.
Not only is a farmer, he’s a certified meteorologist.
"It costs money. I don't want to run water if I don't have to. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to for the next three nights," said Spivey.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District says well owners are likely to lose pressure and are asking people in Eastern Hillsborough County to turn them off every night for the next three nights.
Creel says all he can do is wait and hope his home holds and the sinkhole underneath doesn't get any bigger.
"It'll be a little bit more nerve-wracking than last year 'cause now you know you have a problem, and the concern is, what's it going to do," he said.
To report a dry well, you can contact 813-985-7481 or 1-800-848-0499.
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Last week, the I-Team was there when 99-year-old Willi Berchau was released from Florida's guardianship program after a three year court battle.