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Work underway to fill sinkhole, repair damage in Exeter Commons shopping center parking lot

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
69 News, follow: @69news, news@wfmz.com
Published On: May 05 2014 09:44:00 AM CDT
Updated On: May 05 2014 05:01:19 PM CDT

Crews have begun work to fill a large sinkhole that swallowed part of a shopping center parking lot in Berks County last week.

EXETER TWP., Pa. -

Work began Monday to fill a large sinkhole that opened up in a busy shopping center in Berks County last week.

An engineer and a contracting crew dug deep to repair the sinkhole that swallowed part of the parking lot in the Exeter Commons shopping center in Exeter Township.

"First, we have to remove the asphalt to try and see where the actual throat of the sinkhole is and from there we can start peeling back the asphalt," said Don Kellenberger, of Kellenberger Excavating LLC.

Several parking spaces caved in when the hole opened up early Thursday morning in front of the Moe's Southwest Grill restaurant. This year, Cinco de Mayo has been dubbed "sinkhole de Moes."

"Across the brand itself, it's our busiest time, so it was concerning, but I think our fans are going to respond," said Travis Odom, owner of the restaurant chain's location in Exeter Township.

Odom first thought the hole would sink business on the restaurant's busiest day of the year, so the chain took to social media to make a joke about it. The restaurant chain messaged its Twitter followers a link to the WFMZ.com story with the message, "Moe's debates making their Homewrecker burritos smaller after huge sinkhole occurs. We call it sinkholedemoes." They also posted pictures on their Facebook page.

"As a business owner, you get things tossed at you every day. Life gives you lemons, you make lemonade out of it," said Odom, who added business was booming.

The publicity has generated quite a bit of interest in onlookers visiting the sinkhole and taking photos of themselves in front of it, prompting officials over the weekend to expand the safety perimeter as a precaution.

Officials still haven't determined what caused the cave-in, but they believe weather played a role.

"We had an extreme winter with the frost the deepest it's been in years and then the heavy rains here last week," said Kellenberger.

Crews are expected to lower cameras into the hole to determine if the pipes are cracked or leaking, which will help determine an exact cause. The work is expected to last for two weeks.

Another sinkhole opened on the opposite end of the parking lot in 2010, a year after the shopping center opened.