Tornado Sighted as Guests Are Trapped on Attraction at EPCOT

tornado at epcot
Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

WARNING: The following article contains language that may not be suitable for younger readers. Viewer discretion is advised. 

A usually calming ride at Disney World might have become somewhat unsettling for guests who had just boarded the attraction when they received a startling text message.


Credit: Becky Burkett

On Sunday evening, Florida’s Emergency Management Division issued a warning to residents and visitors on their Disney vacation about potential severe weather headed their way.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, however, the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Watch for areas of Central Florida, including parts of Orange and Osceola Counties that are home to the Walt Disney World Resort. But a Tornado Watch usually includes larger areas–usually multiple counties in a state–and are meant to make people aware that tornadoes and their resulting damage are possible.

A Tornado Warning, on the other hand, is issued when a tornado and its trademark funnel cloud have been seen either by trained spotters on the ground or indicated by radar, and a notification of a Tornado Warning is just what one guest received after boarding a ride at Disney World’s second theme park.

@EpcotBarbie took to X, formerly Twitter, to share the message she received from the National Weather Service just after she boarded a boat at the Living With the Land attraction inside The Land pavilion at EPCOT. In her post, she shows the text message on her phone, just before the boat floats through the part of the ride in which lightning strikes and thunder rolls.

The message read as follows:

Emergency alert: Extreme

National Weather Service: TORNADO WARNING in this area until 6:15 PM EST. Take shelter now in a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Check media.

tornado warning on phone

Credit: X/Epcot Barbie

The post on X, formerly Twitter, was slightly comical as the message is shown just before the “lightning” strikes in the ride, but on the other hand, the scenario could also have been unsettling for anyone on the attraction, especially as the notification of a Tornado Warning means that people in the area need to–as the message said–take shelter immediately.

That’s not exactly a possibility for guests aboard a moving attraction.

What’s the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning?

There’s a big difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning, but for people who don’t live in areas where these notifications are received as part of their usual weather patterns, the two can be confusing. The specifics of each notification are as follows, per the National Weather Service:

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
tornado touching the ground

Credit: Canva

  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

One of the most clear-cut explanations of the two types of notifications about the potential for tornadoes comes in the form of a meme that features the Wicked Witch of the West character from MGM’s 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

wicked witch of the west meme about tornadoes

Credit: MGM Screenshots/Creator unknown

The Tornado Warning issued on Tuesday night for the Walt Disney World Resort area was set to expire at 6:15 p.m. local time, and the time on the phone in the post on X reads 17:49, or 5:49 p.m.

So it’s likely that guests were able to finish the ride at the attraction and then make their way to shelter–preferably on the lower level of The Land pavilion–and wait out the warning while hoping no tornadoes popped up anywhere close to them.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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