Is Clermont resort sinkhole reason for theme park concern?

5:13 PM, Aug 12, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +



Eric Glasser Video Stories
More Eric Glasser Stories
Eric Glasser Video Stories
More Eric Glasser Stories

Clermont, FL -- Could Orlando theme parks, and the millions of tourists who flock there, be in danger from sinkholes?

It's certainly a question on the minds of visitors who had just minutes to flee their hotel rooms in Clermont last night, after a sinkhole swallowed their rooms at the Summer Bay Resort, just six miles from Disney's Main Gate, according to the resort's website.

MORE: Resort partially collapses near Disney World

Building 104 collapsed into a sinkhole 60 feet wide and at least 15 feet deep, according to Lake County Fire Rescue's estimates.

Miraculously, no one was injured -- thanks, in large part, to night security officer Richard Shanley, who frantically ran door to door, even as he could feel the ground giving way.

"As I went from one side to the other- back and forth- the building did drop anywhere from 10 to 20 inches each time I went up a level," said Shanley.

Many of the guests, stirred from their sleep, didn't believe Shanley at first, he says.

"So, I literally had to tell them two or three times you have to get out. They're saying 'Why?' and I said because your building's falling apart and we need you to exit the building immediately."

Fire Rescue officials, still surveying the damage, hope the sinkhole has stabilized now.

The collapse, they say, also busted gas, power lines and water pipes.

"The utilities have been secured and now it's just a waiting game to see if it's gonna do anything else," said Lake County Batallion Chief Randy Jones.

Several guests, even from other states, say it reminded them of February's incident involving 37 year-old Jeff Bush from Seffner.

Jeff Kiley, visiting from Baltimore, Maryland, says he thought about it once he realized what had happened.

"You know, where the sinkhole swallowed the person's whole house and took him down with it," said Kiley. "My son was very frightened."

Although, miraculously, no one was injured, the concerns suddenly created by the sinkhole now reach well beyond Summer Bay Resort.

"You know, they're unpredictable so you don't know whether another one's gonna pop up right next to it or 10 miles down the road, you just don't know," said Chief Jones.

SINKHOLE DATABASE: Look up your county

The problem is, in this case, just six miles down the road puts you smack in the middle of Orlando's theme parks. Disney, Lake Buena and other resorts.

And since no one here remembers ever seeing anything like this since those theme parks and buildings were constructed, they have no idea, they admit, where - or when - another could open-up.

See Also: What it looks like underground in Florida

"I thought, you know, this uh, is something I hadn't really thought could happen," said Kiley.

The structure began cracking and popping shortly after 11:00 p.m.

About four hours later, guests and resort workers looked on in horror as the building collapsed.

Incredibly, all 105 people inside got out unharmed, but in many cases, their belongings, including clothes and medications, were still inside.

"We don't have a choice but to ride it out," said guest Adrienne Logan.

Logan was among those told to leave. She's a newlywed, visiting from Atlanta on her honeymoon. This was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime, but now, she says, she's afraid to go back to sleep.

"That's gonna be scary because last night I was gonna lay down in my car," said Logan. "I don't know if the ground around us is stable, I don't know if it's because of the lake or water that's there."

Lake County fire officials say they're not sure yet either- an admittedly alarming fact.

"I mean it is a concern, but we are living in Florida. Florida is well known for its sinkholes," said Chief Jones, "They're just so unpredictable you just don't know where they're gonna pop up."

See Also: FL geologists to map state for sinkholes

Some of the guests took what they had and left in the middle of the night, and though resort managers have been trying to reach out and offer other accommodations on the property, several say they are not comfortable doing so.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers from the Florida DEP.

My yard is settling... Do I have a sinkhole? 

Maybe. But a number of other factors can cause holes, depressions or subsidence of the ground surface. Expansive clay layers in the earth may shrink upon drying, buried organic material, poorly-compacted soil after excavation work, buried trash or logs and broken pipes all may cause depressions to form at the ground surface. These settling events, when not verified as true sinkholes by professionals, are collectively called "subsidence incidents." If the settling is affecting a dwelling, further testing by a licensed engineer with a licensed geologist on staff or a licensed geology firm may be in order. Property insurance may pay for testing, but in many cases insurance may not cover damage from settling due to causes other than sinkholes.

A sinkhole opened in my neighborhood... should I be concerned? 

Although sinkholes in Florida sometimes occur in sets, most are isolated events. The bedrock underlying the state is honeycombed with cavities of varying size, most of which will not collapse in our lifetimes. A quick inspection of your property for any sinking or soft areas might be prudent. Unless the sinkhole is very large, and extends to your property, there's likely to be little reason for concern.

Should a sinkhole open in an area near you the hole should be immediately cordoned off and clearly marked to protect traffic. Contact local law enforcement to report the hazard and call your city or county road department to initiate repair work. If the road is private, repair of the hole is usually the responsibility of the landowner or property owners' association.

Is there a safe area of Florida where there is no chance of sinkholes? 

Technically, no. Since the entire state is underlain by carbonate rocks, sinkholes could theoretically form anywhere. However, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher. In general, areas of the state where limestone is close to surface, or areas with deeper limestone but with a conducive configuration of water table elevation, stratigraphy, and aquifer characteristics have increased sinkhole activity.

Additionally, the Department announced Friday that the Florida Geological Survey, in conjunction with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, has received a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address sinkhole vulnerability. Find more information here.

Most Watched Videos