Recent social media posts and YouTube videos have given more insight into the thinking behind some so-called “evacuees” and their motives ahead of Hurricane Ian–as well as their practices during the storm. Viewers are furious, and tempers are running high as some have even called for the vloggers to be banned from Disney World for attempting to “monetize a tragedy.”
Days before Hurricane Ian finally made landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast, forecasters and emergency management leadership urged Floridians to watch the weather closely and follow guidance from local law enforcement. Evacuation directives were eventually issued–some mandatory–to keep residents as safe as possible and out of the path of the extremely unpredictable storm.
Evacuating–leaving one’s home, possessions, friends, comfort, and familiarity–and finding shelter elsewhere, whether with family or in a hotel–is no easy feat. What should be taken? What should be left behind? What will be left of one’s belongings after the storm passes? And is the promise of safety elsewhere only a mirage?
Those in the path of the storm who did not evacuate were faced with a certain uncertainty: how severe would the storm be? Was staying the right choice? And if power is lost, how long will there be no power, no water, no ability to leave?
These were just a few of the questions and scenarios faced by residents in Florida who had to make decisions about how they would respond to the storm. And most will say it’s an experience they don’t soon hope to repeat. Many Florida residents who evacuated made plans early enough to be able to book a Disney World Resort Hotel room. It’s a common practice; Disney has been a hub for many a hurricane rideout.
But some who waited until the last minute to leave could not find accommodations at any Disney hotel. They were just about full, and early in the day on Wednesday, hours before Ian impacted Central Florida, Disney closed its doors to further check-ins, regardless of reservation status.
But in the days since Hurricane Ian ravaged Florida, several social media posts have made it increasingly clear why some Florida residents–including those who were not necessarily in the path of the monster storm–booked rooms at Disney World, and it had everything to do with the almighty dollar.
Free enterprise and capitalism are wonderful things, but it seems there’s something inherently wrong with profiting from the tragedies of others, and that’s just what some people feel happened while Hurricane Ian lashed out against Florida. That’s because several vloggers headed to Disney World to stay in a Resort hotel and monetize one of the worst natural disasters ever to touch Florida.
And their attempts to monetize such a tragedy were helped along by Photoshopped imagery, the spreading of misinformation, and untruths.
One YouTuber, known for his daily posts online, booked a room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort and stayed there during the hurricane. He claims the room was booked by family members who ultimately canceled their trip–and that he made use of the reservation, even though he lives close to the Disney World Resort.
“It’s going to be scary times,” YouTuber Kyle Pallo said in his video, adding, “so if you guys could, please go ahead and thumbs up this video and subscribe if you guys are new.”
In one video, Pallo brags about purchasing the last available hurricane meal kit at the Resort hotel. These kits were put together for Guests who had come to Disney World to take shelter–many of whom most likely did not have time to purchase groceries beforehand–or who had very limited options at their local grocery stores as residents bought up groceries and supplies in preparation for the storm.
Later in the video, the vlogger showed viewers the food he had brought with him to the hotel: various snacks, two loaves of bread, peanut butter, bottled water, two bottles of wine, and tequila.
On Twitter, Pallo was sure to post about scoring the last hurricane meal kit, tweeting, “Pop Century cafe is madness. BUT I did get the last meal kit :).”
Pop century cafe is madness. BUT I did get the last meal kit 🙂
— Kyle ~ (@KylePallo) September 28, 2022
Pallo’s posts did not sit well with some.
“That seems rather inconsiderate since YOU are a local and have a home to take shelter,” one person replied.
“Glad you got the last meal kit,” another user replied. “Screw those hungry people who were stuck at Pop without a home to go to 10 minutes away.”
Pallo’s roommate, JoJo Crichton, whose Disney-focused TikTok account has nearly 750,000 followers, also posted a video. His is titled, “Disney Springs & Resorts Are Shutting Down Due To Hurricane Ian! (no more water/gas).”
Tons of peoples power going out here in Orlando. This is why us locals go to Hotels! Backup generators are Way safer, crazy if you don’t agree.
— Kyle ~ (@KylePallo) September 29, 2022
Some who learned about Pallo’s videos have called for him and vloggers like him to be banned from the parks for this behavior.
Vloggers like Kyle Pallo who live down the street from Disney but are taking food from people who have nowhere else to take shelter is disgusting and why vloggers should be banned from @DisneyParks @WaltDisneyWorld People like him should not be allowed to do this.
— Havein (@Havein) September 28, 2022
Yet another vlogger named his video “Trapped in Walt Disney World Hotel During Hurricane Ian,” though it’s clear throughout the video that he was anything but trapped as he live-streamed for two hours from his savannah view room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort. He even explains that he prefers to stay at Disney World during hurricanes, as his apartment often has “maintenance issues.”
Not trapped at Disney World, clearly.
The video enraged some viewers like @bethanyvinton, who said the vlogger was “out of touch” for referring to himself as “trapped” when he “voluntarily checked into a Deluxe Resort in Disney World during a hurricane.” She goes on to note that the vlogger “took money from people” on his live-stream, but it isn’t clear whether she was referring to monetizing the content or something else.
Imagine being so out of touch that you thought the word “trapped” should be in your video description when you voluntarily checked into a deluxe resort in Disney World during a hurricane… Oh oh and you took money from people on your livestream. cc: @WDWNT pic.twitter.com/0pUQEIKoI1
— Bethany (@bethanyvinton) September 29, 2022
As of Tuesday evening, nearly a week after the hurricane wreaked havoc in the Sunshine State, the death toll stands at 109–105 in Florida and 4 in North Carolina. Thousands are now homeless thanks to the savagery of the Category 4 storm.
Also as of Tuesday evening, more than 400,000 residents in Florida were still without power, according to PowerOutage.us. Many outages remain in the hardest-hit counties of Lee and Charlotte. More than 208,000 residents with no power are in Lee County, and more than 75,000 of them are in Charlotte County. Outages continue to be a problem in Sarasota, Manatee, Collier, Hendry, Hardee, and Desoto counties as well.