Seffner Bob Evans restaurant evacuated after building compromised by possible sinkhole

5:37 PM, Jun 9, 2013   |    comments
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SEFFNER, Florida -- At first glance, the Bob Evans at 11720 Tampa Gateway Blvd. just off I-4 looked like any other -- just without bustling business normally seen on a Sunday.

But what worried the restaurant's employees Sunday morning, and now concerns fire rescue officials, is a series of cracks covering some of the walls and rising through the floor just beyond the front entrance.

"We did find structural compromise to one side of the building," said Nacole Revette with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Code enforcement, engineers, and the restaurant's construction managers have all been called onto the scene east of exit 10 on I-4. It could take days and several building and ground tests to determine what has occurred. The building has been evacuated. Orange signs on the doors read, "Vacated." A fence installed around the property bars the public from entering.

"We know that we've had substantial rain in the area. It could be a possible washout, where the ground is just unstable," Revette said, adding that there is a retention pond near the property that could have made matters worse.

Even with that possibility, Mark Lahue said his pastor announced during a church service Sunday morning that the cause may have been a sinkhole. This Bob Evans location is about four miles away from the sinkhole on Faithway Drive in Seffner that swallowed up a man in March. 

"You don't expect that to come into your little town like that. In a restaurant, you don't even think of that happening," Lahue said.

Hampton Inn & Suites Tampa-East neighbors Bob Evans. The hotel is running business as usual, but employees are keeping an eye out to make sure the property isn't also affected. 

"It was a surprise, that's for sure," says General Manager Marie Weston.

Seeing cracks like the ones at Bob Evans, or at your own home, may be concerning. Taylor Yarkosky, better known as The Sinkhole Guy, talked with 10 News about what surface signs to watch out for.

"You'll first see it off the corners of windows and doors," he said. "One little hairline crack somewhere is probably nothing to be concerned about, but if you see them in multiple locations around your house or if you see cracks along your pool deck that continually get worse and worse, pool decks are very good indications of unstable soils."

Yarkosky encourages people to spend a few minutes checking the outside of their homes. His company also offers free inspections to look for those signs.

"I think the geology of Florida and the way the water tables go up and down, I think it's getting worse and worse and we're going to see a lot more of this," he said.

More sinkhole stories:

Seffner SinkholeMan tells tale of rushing to save brother from sinkhole

SINKHOLE DATABASE: Look up your county

Karst Map: What it looks like underground in Florida

Sinkhole Map: Florida Sinkhole map provided by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Geological Survey (PDF)

More Pictures: Demolition begins of sinkhole-home

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