Lakeport Sinkhole Devours Subdivision north of San Francisco

Lakeport sinkhole

In Lakeport, a subdivision about 100 miles north of San Francisco, homeowners are abandoning virtually everything they own.  A large sinkhole is slowly devouring their community.

The ground below their homes is disappearing at an unpredictable rate.  Sometimes the hole increases by several feet a day, and others at only a fraction of an inch.

At the present time, 8 homes have been evacuated, and 10 more are on notice.  The community was established over 30 years ago, and has exquisite views of Clear Lake and the Mt. Konocti volcano.

Mail service to the area has been suspended because of a possibly dangerous situation for mail carriers.

“It’s a slow-motion disaster,” said Randall Fitzgerald, a writer who bought his home in the Lakeside Heights project a year ago.

The volcanic area of northern California differs from recent disasters in Florida where sinkholes can swallow a house in seconds.  The situation in Lakeport fluctuates.  Water has bubbled to the surface, which is believe to be a major factor in the deconstruction of the ground, but geological studies have previously shown a lack of groundwater.

“That’s the big question,” said Scott De Leon, county public works director. “We have a dormant volcano, and I’m certain a lot of things that happen here (in Lake County) are a result of that, but we don’t know about this.”

Dr. De Leon says that the ground could collapse as far as 25 feet below to the bedrock level.  Roads in the surrounding area have developed cracks on the surface.

“Considering this is a low rainfall year and the fact it’s letting go now after all of these years, and the magnitude that it’s letting go, well it’s pretty monumental,” De Leon said.

Seeking a cause for the sudden change in what was unexpected by geologists 30 years ago, and at the present time, every avenue has been explored.  The sewage system was the first to be investigated, but showed only a few minor cracks which could not have contributed to the disaster.

Scientists are considering the possibility of shifts in the flow of underground water.

“It’s very common for groundwater to shift its course,” said Tom Ruppenthal, of Utility Services Associates in Seattle. “I think the groundwater has shifted.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Lake County Board of Supervisors asked Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an emergency so funding might be available to stabilize utilities and determine the cause of the collapse. On May 6, state Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) wrote a letter of support asking Brown for immediate action. The California Emergency Management Agency said Brown was still assessing the situation.

James Turnage

Columnist and Managing Editor

The Guardian Express

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