A sinkhole gobbled up a retail building on Fraser Street in Georgetown shortly before 11:00 p.m. Thursday. No one was hurt, but now other property owners in the area wonder if their buildings will be next.
The Georgetown Fire Department didn't have to get a call from dispatchers about the emergency. Firefighters on duty at the city's number one fire station just a few hundred feet away heard the building fall.
"The lieutenant came out and checked it and he saw, it was on the ground," said Asst. Fire Chief Bill Johnson
Johnson said engineers don't have an official explanation for what caused the sinkhole that first showed up in the building's parking lot a few weeks ago.
"Clearly, the sinkhole developed and the building fell into it. There's no question about that. But how they're connected, what's causing them, there's just been nothing said," Johnson said.
But the owner of the Parrish Motors building, just across the street from the collapse, thinks he knows what caused it. He said it's the SC Department of Transportation's flood control drainage project a couple of blocks away.
"This problem never existed until they started pumping water about five weeks around the clock," said Jeepy Ford. He said he is starting to see cracks develop in his building as well.
The owner of the collapsed building said he's checking with his insurance company to make sure he's covered for an incident like a collapse due to a sinkhole. He is also working with his tenants to make sure that they can find new places to do business.
"Our main focus has been to take care of folks, make sure they're not injured, and we were just grateful that this happened during the night and not during the daytime," said Tony Jordan.
Jordan said the building appeared to be a near total loss, but he couldn't be sure.
For now, traffic on Highway 17 that goes past the collapsed building has been re-routed. Nearby buildings, like the Georgetown County Judicial Center and a bank, are closed after cracks were found in both. Firefighters are inspecting other buildings in a three-to-four block area around the collapsed building.
Gas, water and electrical service have been shut off to the collapsed building and engineers are keeping a close eye on another sinkhole that developed on Highmarket Street about a block away.
Late Friday, the DOT put out a statement that said the agency "is still trying to confirm if the City of Georgetown drainage project is having any effect on the situation. As a precautionary measure, SCDOT will temporarily discontinue the dewatering process related to the drainage project on US 17 until we have a better understanding of the cause."