By Peter Schlesinger
February 02, 2017

It’s normal for visitors to Walt Disney World to worry about falling from the sky—the Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, and other rides all feature nausea-inducing drops. But last night, the worry was of plummeting into the earth below.

Late Sunday, a 40-foot wide sinkhole opened at Summer Bay Resort, a condominium vacation complex located just minutes from Walt Disney World. Guests first became alarmed when their lights went off, but creaking noises and large cracks forming on the wall signified something grimmer than a mere power outage.

A security guard ran through the complex telling the roughly 35 guests in the affected buildings to evacuate. Within minutes, the hole had swallowed about a third of two buildings. Just fifteen feet deep, the shallow sinkhole totally destroyed 48 condo units, and no injuries were reported.

Today, local engineers are assessing the damage, while the American Red Cross is providing assistance to the displaced families, many of whom did not have time to retrieve their belongings.

Under 7 miles away from the Magic Kingdom, Summer Bay Resort is a popular vacation spot for visitors to Disney World who prefer to stay off-property (one of T+L’s Money-Saving Tips for Disney World). 

Unfortunately, the state is no stranger to sinkholes. According to its Department of Environmental Protection, sinkholes represent “a fact of life in Florida,” and maps based on Florida Geological Society data highlight county-by-county where the holes appear most.

These maps show that visitors to Orlando and its many resorts should not fret too much. While anomalies occur, sinkholes in the area tend to be “few and small,” and to form gradually. In other words, Disney World is still safe.

Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.