Could the Disney Sinkhole Happen in Chicago?

Even Disney magic can’t stop sinkholes. A giant, 60-foot wide sinkhole opened under a popular Disney-area resort late on Sunday swallowing nearly an entire building at the Summer Bay Resort. The Summer Bay Resort is located in Clermont, Florida and is about 5 miles, or 10 minutes, away from the Walt Disney World Resort.image

The resort was filled with vacationing families, and the sink hole was first noticed when a guest called a security guard about a window being blown out. While the guard was investigating, another window broke and the guard sprang into action. In less than 40 minutes, the guard and a coworker helped over 100 people evacuate the building.

Shortly after the building was evacuated, the three-story building began to collapse into a 15-foot hole, and another building slowly sank. No one was hurt in the incident, but one family had to be evacuated through a window due to the door frame to their room collapsing.

Florida is prime ground for sinkholes to occur due to the high water table found in most parts of the state along with bedrock made primarily out of carbonate rock such as limestone. The rock is slowly dissolved by groundwater leaving voids that can collapse due to the rock being unable to support the weight directly above it.

Could a Sinkhole Like This Happen In Chicago?

Much of Chicagoland has a similar bedrock structure to Florida, and the beautiful limestone buildings in towns like Lemont showcase this bedrock well. Unfortunately, bedrock and excessive moisture are a dangerous combination. In April, three cars were swallowed in a massive sinkhole on the southeast side of the city. However, that sinkhole was caused mainly by a water main break combined with the record amount of rainfall and flooding that occurred in the April. In July, a sinkhole opened on the South Side near the 7900 block of South Euclid, and another opened in southwest suburban Joliet and injured a woman who was standing on pavement one moment and then sliding into a sinkhole the next. While the sinkholes in this area tend to be smaller, larger sinkholes are a definite possibility especially when the ground is extremely saturated.

What to Do If You Spot a Sinkhole

If you spot a sinkhole opening in your street or neighborhood in a high traffic area, call 911 to report it immediately and keep your distance to avoid being swallowed. If the sinkhole is in your yard, call your homeowners insurance immediately, and if a cavern opens up evacuate the premises and notify your insurance company. Early signs of sinkholes include new and rapidly expanding foundation cracks, new water pools after heavy rains and windows and doors that suddenly become difficult to open.

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