Paul Easter, a Houston-based radio engineer, was having dinner Tuesday evening at Palm Coast’s Cracker Barrel when very suddenly, young diners at the other end of the dining room started screaming and streaming out of the restaurant.
They feared that sink hole was opening up beneath them.
“These two tables full of 20-somethings stood up started yelling and ran out of the restaurant,” Easter said. “I went over to look, and the floor was buckling, it wasn’t caving in, it was going up rather than down.”
“All the tile was splitting at the seams,” he said. But the sound of the crackling tiles, Easter said, was not as loud as the patrons’ screams.
The Palm Coast Fire Department was quickly at the scene–the incident was called in to the 911 center at 6:47 p.m., 911 notes indicate– and had everyone evacuated. The store manager turned off the gas connection. The 911 dispatcher reported that several individuals feared a sinkhole, but as it turned out that’s not what it was.
The fire department called in Palm Coast’s chief building official, a city spokesperson said today, “to determine whether it was being caused by a sinkhole or any other kind of natural disaster, and he responded and determined it not to be a natural disaster. So basically from our standpoint it did not involve any sort of public safety issue and it was really an issue for Cracker Barrel to deal with as far as their tile cracking.”
At 8:03 p.m., the building department “advised building safe to occupy,” according to dispatch notes, but the building was to reopen in Wednesday morning, not on Tuesday evening.
The company’s corporate office in Tennessee was contacted this morning and said it would respond to questions about the likely nature of the issue, but had not done so by late afternoon.
The restaurant itself was open for business this morning as normal, with plywood evenly fitted into the space where the tile had crackled, a space roughly about 10 by 6 feet, and tables placed on top of that for diners. It proved to be no impediment to diners or normal business.