Evacuations ordered after another sinkhole opens under a Seffner duplex

SEFFNER, Fla. - For the third time in as many weeks, a sinkhole has forced the evacuation of a residence in Seffner. 

When county inspectors met with Thomas Joseph about the duplex he owns on Peach Avenue, the one with those ominous orange signs, the news wasn't good.

"I need to do an inspection," he said, "and they will let us know what to do."

Yes, as the owner, its now up to him to let the county know its either OK to go in or if it's too dangerous.  After the tenants on one side sensed a shift under the sofa last night, the stickers went up and the duplex was deemed off limits.

"Did you know you were surrounded in 'sinkhole central' here?"  I asked him as we stood in front of the crime-scene yellow tape that surrounded his property  "No," he answered.  "Not at all."

Yet in the midst of what has become a neighborhood pocked with portions of the earth giving way, we talked about the signs of sinkhole damage that the inspectors duly noted as well.

"Yeah, that was there when we bought it," he said, pointing to the step-like crack in the corner of the home. "The inspector said it was a settling crack."

But it was the supposed settling that caused the evacuation of the duplex, and left Keith Simpson unable to even get back inside to get his things.

"I got a hotel for the night for now," he said. "Red Cross is helping me out."

"Did you know about sinkholes before you got here?"  I asked the man who said he'd moved about six months ago from the East Coast of Florida.

"No," he said.  

"You have first hand knowledge now?"

"Yeah, I know pretty much now what they're about, so…"

So he'll wait until Mr. Joseph can get the inspection done -- at his expense.

"Somewhere around $15,000," he estimates the price.  "To check is $7,000 to $15,000."

In fact, its that price that is leaving many neighbors here to forgo checking their property for the possibility of sinkholes.  

As one resident told me, "It's not earthquakes.  I'm not shoveling snow.  I'm fine… it is what it is."

Just before we went live at the home tonight, the initial inspections were done, and it was deemed that there was a sinkhole.  One that may be mitigated.  It also appears that Keith -- and his neighbor in the other side of the duplex -- will be able to get back and get their stuff soon. 

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