Sinkholes — or rumors of them — are plaguing Seffner lately.
The latest possible cavern opened on Peach Avenue on Tuesday night, forcing two families into hotel rooms until experts can gauge the danger.
Wednesday afternoon, Hillsborough County officials told the owner of the duplex that neither of the two families that had been living there is allowed inside for the time being, said county spokesman Willie Puz.
“We told him we weren’t going to allow occupancy until he gets an engineering report on what’s underneath his property,” Puz said.
What lies beneath the floor remained a mystery, Puz said. Whatever’s there is causing the tile in the kitchen and a side room to buckle and one of the walls to crack.
It’s the fourth possible sinkhole-related incident in Seffner over the past month that forced people from their homes. The most well-known — and deadly — incident was one in late February in which a man died when his bedroom floor gave way into a yawning cavern.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue got a call about damage to the duplex at 5315 Peach Ave. that might have been caused by a sinkhole.
Two families, including five adults and an infant, were asked to leave their apartments so emergency workers could evaluate the situation. County code enforcement officers later suggested the family sleep elsewhere, Puz said.
Sinkhole experts were at the scene Wednesday morning to survey the damage and assess the danger, he said, and the American Red Cross stepped in to help find housing for the families.
“We provided hotel rooms for the five adults and one infant affected by the sinkhole,” said Janet McGuire, spokeswoman for the Red Cross chapter in Tampa. “We also provided funds for food, clothing and seasonal garments for each of them.
“We will be working with the families until they are able to return to their homes or need to relocate,” she said.
A sinkhole 8 feet wide and 10 feet deep also opened last weekend between two houses in Seffner. The residents were moved out but were allowed to return after an insurance company surveyed the sinkhole and said there appeared to be no imminent danger of collapse.
On March 4, a sinkhole about 12 feet wide and 5 feet deep opened between two houses on Cedar Tree Lane. There were no injuries or structural damage.
On Feb. 28, a sinkhole opened beneath a home on Faithway Drive, causing the foundation to collapse. Jeff Bush, 37, who was in his bedroom at the time, fell into the gaping hole. His body has not been recovered.
The Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency recently published these tips for people who suspect a sinkhole is threatening their property:
The agency said that Florida has more sinkholes than any other state, “with the majority of all sinkhole insurance claims in Florida coming from Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.”
The agency said people buying homes in sinkhole-prone areas should take some precautions:
Insurance companies in Florida are required to carry “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” but moderate damage caused by a sinkhole may not be covered in regular policies without added sinkhole coverage.