Homeowners receive Christmas miracle; dangerous sinkhole fixed free of charge

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  Sinkholes may be rare. But, because of what's been happening in the Tennessee Valley lately, you might be more at risk than normal.

Jared Jimison is dealing with this problem right now. He and his wife came home to a huge hole in the front yard of their home in a new subdivision.

A nightmare for any homeowner. Thankfully, a local contractor has agreed to help them fix it. And the developer has offered to cover the cost.

"When they get done with the compression of the new ground in there. They'll also be giving us a new yard to replace any of the damage of that and they'll be filling in the driveway," said Jimison.

That's welcome news since sinkholes aren't covered by the family's homeowner's insurance. But they still have questions. Mainly, how did this happen?

Keith Mandel, a geo-technical engineer and the contractor working on the sinkhole, has an answer for them.

"This is an indirect effect of the drought," he said.

Mandel says sinkholes are extremely rare. But, they can happen in certain circumstances, like the drought we've recently experienced.

"When do we see these sinkholes open up? When we start to get rain back in them. That's when they saturate the top," he explained.

He said the water table in the ground has dropped well below where it normally is.

"People don't really realize how historic this drought was. Our aquifer was deeply affected and the water dropped dramatically," he said.

Mandel said there is really no way to tell if you're at risk for a sink hole and no way to prevent it. However, you do have the option of sinkhole insurance.

"It's really cheap. It's easy to do and the insurance companies know there's a low probability of anything ever occurring."

It's uncommon for people to even think about that insurance. That was the case for Jimison. But after this experience, he said it would be worth it.

"Obviously, if you don't have some kind of outbringing from the community that would be an expense that you would have to pay. So, it's definitely worth investigating," said Jimison.

And that community response is what is helping Jimison and his wife get through this.  DR Horton, the builders in the Jimison's Sanctuary Cove neighborhood performed a Christmas miracle.

"They have decided to take any and all expenses upon them. It's the best surprise that could happen in this kind of situation where you still don't know if there's going to be any money at the end," said Jimison.

He said their generosity will now take a huge burden off of his family.

"That is just a tremendous blessing that I can't really put into words. Christmas doesn't have to be canceled now!" he said.

Mandel said they hope to have the sinkhole filled by Thursday at the latest. Perfect timing as the Jimison's have family from Kansas City arriving this weekend for holiday festivities.