Engineers are testing the ground underneath a Bob Evans restaurant in Seffner to determine whether a sinkhole opened up either Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
Employees noticed cracks along the floor and in the walls of the business when the arrived for work Sunday and called a manager, who decided not to open the business.
"On one side of the building we can see lines going through," said Nacole Revette, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. "The outside has cracks from top to bottom. On the inside, it mimics the cracks that we are seeing on the outside."
Investigators said it's too early to tell if a sinkhole caused the cracks; Revette said the cracks could have occurred when heavy rains forced the water from a nearby retention to flow under the restaurant, causing the ground to settle.
"We know that we've had substantial rain within the area," she said. "It could be a possible washout, where the ground is just unstable."
The restaurant, on Tampa Gateway Boulevard, is located less than five miles away from the home in Seffner under which a sinkhole opened earlier this year, killing a man inside and forcing crews to demolish other houses nearby.
Neighbors and customers are hoping the damage at Bob Evans wasn't the result of another sinkhole.
"We've got a lot of kids and a lot schools and churches right around here. I don't want nothing to happen to them," said Carole Shaffer, whose fiance works at a convenience store next to the restaurant. "I'm scared it's going to spread and [with] him working here, [he could] get hurt."
"It is scary. I was here Friday having brunch and there wasn't any problem then," said Susannah Winters, who lives down the street. "I wouldn't go back in there until they found out what it was."
The restaurant will remain closed for several days during testing.
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