TODAY   |  May 06, 2012

Family flees home as sinkhole swallows property

A Florida family of 6 escaped their home as a growing sinkhole started to swallow their backyard. TODAY’s Lester Holt speaks with the family.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, co-host: Imagine looking outside your window and seeing a gigantic sinkhole in your backyard. It happened to one family of six in Florida who were forced to evacuate when the 100 foot sinkhole came within a few feet of their back door. Luckily, they escaped. Lou and Denise Lambrose and two of their children join us this morning from Windermere , Florida . Good morning. Good to see ya .

Mr. LOU LAMBROSE (Sinkhole Forces Family From Home): Good morning.

Ms. DENISE LAMBROSE (Sinkhole Forces Family From Home): Good morning.

HOLT: Lou , it's a terrifying picture to see that hole so close to your home. What's it like for you to see that and realize that your kids played in that backyard?

Mr. LAMBROSE: You know, we're a couple days removed from when it happened. Just coming back here is so much frightening for me. It's just because, like you said, I know that my kids played back there. But you know, we feel truly blessed because we believe God spared us from a tragedy. You can look at it as a, you know, a natural disaster, but I call it a natural blessing because, you know, I'm thankful I have all of my children. The neighborhood kids used to come over here and play and, you know, I just feel totally blessed that, you know, nothing worse happened.

HOLT: Well, it's a great attitude to have, and I'm wondering, has it grown any since it was first discovered?

Mr. LAMBROSE: From the original point when we originally came down in the morning, it has grown tremendously. I try not to look directly at it too much. But you know, it -- just from images that I've seen on TV , it has grown from what I've seen. Now, I don't know it's grown recently. It's hard to tell.

HOLT: It's estimated to be about 50 feet deep, 100 feet wide, as we said. Denise , I understand you discovered it. How did you come upon it? How did you realize what was happening in your backyard?

Ms. LAMBROSE: I just went to take the dog out to go to the bathroom and that's when I went to the door and saw just the earth open huge and just huge chunks of dirt falling in. I witnessed a tree slide down into it, and it took me actually a minute just to stand there to realize what I was actually seeing, to comprehend it all.

HOLT: You could actually see here -- you could actually hear this happening as well?

Ms. LAMBROSE: I did. Actually, I did hear something unusual when I first got up, but I thought it was my daughter downstairs, maybe slamming a door but just kind of little, little booms, little shuffling noises. But it got a little louder as I was going down with the dog, and that's when I discovered it, and it was unreal.

HOLT: And then you go tell Lou . And, Lou , you're probably not quite believing or comprehending what she's telling you.

Mr. LAMBROSE: She came up, I was still in bed. In fact, I -- she woke me up and said, ' Lou , there's a hole in the background -- in the backyard,' and I -- and I told her, it's probably a warthog. I don't know why I said warthog, but.

Ms. LAMBROSE: I said, 'no, there is a hole.'

Mr. LAMBROSE: She was shaking. And then when I saw her shaking and the panic in her face, we both ran downstairs, and as we ran down, it was collapsing, the ground was collapsing into itself, and...

HOLT: Yeah. And very quickly, you guys are out of a house. You've only lived there about three months and you're out of your home. What's your status and what happens now?

Mr. LAMBROSE: We're doing -- we're doing good. You know, the community support's been great. I've got to say the Orange County Fire Department has been unbelievable. When they showed up, they basically were counselors for us because, you know, you don't expect to wake up and have to move out of your house immediately.

Ms. LAMBROSE: Move instantly.

HOLT: Yeah, sure.

Mr. LAMBROSE: And they were basically guiding us through the whole process. They moved us out of the house. They basically took off their fireman's hat and put on their mover's hat and picked up everything, took it out for us. And they have been so great. Orange County , everybody around here, the community has been unbelievable.

HOLT: Well, listen, you obviously have what's important, and it's standing around you right now. Denise and Lou Lambrose , your family.

Ms. LAMBROSE: Yeah.

Mr. LAMBROSE: Absolutely.

HOLT: We're glad you guys are OK. Thanks so much for talking to us and best of luck to you.

Mr. LAMBROSE: Thank you.

Ms. LAMBROSE: Thank you so much .

HOLT: All right.

Mr. LAMBROSE: Thank you.