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Sinkhole in central Texas neighborhood reveals deep cave under 3 homes

Interior photo of Cambria Cavern. (Courtesy: Cambrian Environmental)

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KEYE)- A sinkhole in Williamson County is exposing a 22-foot-deep cavern. New pictures show how far it reaches underneath three homes in the Brushy Creek neighborhood.

The hole opened up Thursday morning by Friday, geologists mapped the cave and are now calling it Cambria Cavern.

“We don't have sinkholes. This is Texas, this is Central Texas,” said Michelle Mitchell, who lives three doors down from the sinkhole.

Mitchell laughed in disbelief when she was first told a sinkhole had opened up into a cavern on her street. But after walking down to see it for herself, her reaction changed.

“It's scary,” said Mitchell.

On Friday Cambrian Environmental released new pictures of the cave. It's up to 22 feet deep and stretches for 170 feet. The entrance to the cave is next to water and gas lines. The three chambers of the cave extend east underneath three houses.

Mitchell’s home is by the smallest chamber that is eight feet deep.

“I want to know as a homeowner what to do to keep everything safe and keep the foundation secure,” said Mitchell. "We still don't know for sure whether it's in front of the house on the street, or if it is actually under the house."

Jenny Laseur lives near the cave, though her home is not directly over it.

"Is this the first of many, or the last of it," Laseur said.

Geologists from Cambrian Environmental spent Friday mapping the cave. A white line in the middle of Cambria Drive is the starting point. Other than the collapse area, the cave experts think the limestone is thick enough underneath the road to remain stable.

“There is at least five and one-quarter feet between the roadway and the cave, so there is some depth there,” said Connie Odom, spokesperson for Williamson County.

The geologists also gauged the integrity of the ceiling of the cave underneath these three homes.

“They do not feel concerned for the areas that are further back. They don't see that the ceiling in the areas further back have a disturbance,” said Odom.

Just a few miles away, you can spot tourists and field trip groups at Inner Space Cavern.

"We have a lot of limestone, and with that we have a lot of caves," said Taunya Vessels, the cave's general manager.

There are hundreds of caves in Williamson County.

The inside of Inner Space Cavern will likely look a lot like the inside of the cave under the Brushy Creek neighborhood.

The biggest difference is the space between the cave and surface.

While the cave under the Brushy Creek neighborhood has a little more than five feet between the surface and cave, Inner Space Cavern has more than 33 feet.

"I don't really know much about that situation but when you have five feet that's not going to be as much strength as 33 feet," said Vessels.

For now, Mitchell and her family are staying put.

“I'm fine with it. I'm not worried about it,” said Mitchell.

But she would like a list of the do’s and don’ts of living on top of a cave. She would also like to see Williamson County install underground reinforcements to keep another hole from opening up.

“There are caves everywhere," says Mitchell. "They are under roadways. They're everywhere you just don't always know it. I guess this is our lucky day."

On Monday, structural engineers will be brought in to determine the cave's stability.

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