USF researchers using drones to understand massive Land O’ Lakes sinkhole

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Researchers with the University of South Florida flew drones and mapped out the area surrounding a massive sinkhole on Ocean Pines Drive in Land O’ Lakes.

The hole swallowed up two homes on July 14.

Crews are preparing to remove water and debris from the hole this week.

“This is my old stomping ground when I was young, so it’s kind of strange being back here under these circumstances,” Lori Collins, associate professor at USF says.

Collins says she grew up in Lake Padgett Estates near the sinkhole. She’s now working to understand why it happened.

Collins and her team are researching the history of the neighborhood. They used drones Wednesday to map out the area.

“By understanding a phenomenon like this, it does help you make smarter decisions,” Collins says.

The answers might come from the past. USF researchers have compiled maps over several decades to compare surrounding lakes and undeveloped land.

The sinkhole appears to have opened up next to where the banks of Lake Saxon used to be based off a map from 1941.

“The more that we learn, the better we can be both stewards and regulators,” Collins says.

Collins says their work would not only help students, but also developers planning to build other communities.

As for Lake Padgett Estates and the massive sinkhole, Collins says she’s always looking for more information.

“If anybody has early information or photographs of the area, I’d like to see those,” Collins says.

An interactive showing geographical changes over the decades is now available online.

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