Two homes affected by the sinkholes have been evacuated. Two other homes have been evacuated as a safety precaution.

A south Marion County woman was surprised early Thursday morning by sinkholes opening up near her home.

The house is at 17092 SE 79th McLawren Terrace in The Villages, Emergency Management Director Preston Bowlin said.

That home and a neighboring one affected by the sinkholes were condemned, he said. Two other homes have been evacuated as a safety precaution. Seven people have been displaced.

Bowlin said there were six sinkholes.

He said the woman reported that, around 1 a.m., she heard noises and didn't think much of it. Two or three hours later she called dispatch to report that there was a hole between her home and her neighbor's place.

Since then, Bowlin said, other holes have opened up nearby, and a water body on the golf course behind the house began draining and — by late Thursday — was nearly dry.

Doris Morrill, the 911 caller, told the Star-Banner she heard a creaking noise sometime after 1 a.m. She thought it might be a prowler.

Then, she said, close to 3 a.m., she heard noise again and looked out the front window but didn't see anything.

Then she realized there was a crack on the floor inside her home, which startled her. After that, Morrill saw a hole outside and decided to call 911.

Her next-door neighbor Jan Neumann said that, about 1 a.m., she and her husband were watching the Winter Olympics and heard three bangs.

He went outside but didn't see anything. They thought it might be thunder.

Neumann said they were unaware of the sinkholes until hours later when law enforcement officials came and told them they had to leave the home.

Marion County Fire Rescue and Sheriff's Office personnel were on the scene.

SECO Energy officials have cut power to all four homes, and officials were waiting for a geotechnical survey before determining their next step.

As of early evening on Thursday, water lines around the sinkholes remained unbroken. If they do break, officials said, 20 homes could be affected by the loss of water.

Bowlin said Thursday evening that one sinkhole at the back of a home had gotten wider and deeper and was about 25 to 30 feet wide and at least 30 feet deep. He said some of the cracks at the home had gotten wider and deeper as well.

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