Sinkhole opens near Winter Haven Publix - FOX 13 News

Sinkhole opens near Winter Haven Publix

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Photo courtesy WHPD Photo courtesy WHPD
A geologist uses radar to assess the hole. A geologist uses radar to assess the hole.

A large sinkhole opened up in Winter Haven Thursday morning along the outer edges of a shopping plaza parking lot.

It happened at the 6000 block of Cypress Gardens Blvd, not far from Legoland Florida.

But even with Legoland just across the street, this massive sinkhole in the Winter Haven Square Plaza became the main attraction Thursday.

It started as a small depression, but quickly grew to a monstrous size, 70 feet wide by 15 feet deep. A brave photographer shot up close cell phone video looking directly into it.

"It’s one of those you just want to see because it’s amazing, but it’s scary at the time," said Amanda Kelley.

The sinkhole appears to have stabilized, but everyone is keeping a close eye on it.

"It is hard to say whether it’s going to expand or not. There’s potential for it to expand," said Brian Swain, who represents the property manager.

Because of that possibility, three businesses directly in front of the sinkhole were evacuated and shut down. But anchor stores farther away like Kmart and Publix stayed open.

Keith Carter works at Publix.

"That’s my source of income there. I just hope nothing happens to the store, no structural damage,” Carter said.

Geologists using ground-penetrating radar spent the day tracking the sinkhole. Cracks run as far as the top of the parking lot, but the good news is nobody was hurt.

Now, the recommendation by experts who have evaluated the situation is for the stores to stay closed through the weekend.

"Let the sinkhole establish itself and settle out," Swain said.

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