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What Happens When There is a Hurricane at Disney World?

Walt Disney World is located right in hurricane territory.  Florida is the number one state impacted by hurricanes in the United States by a large margin, with 102 hurricanes since 1882 (Texas is number two with 64 storms, and North Carolina is number three with 55.) 

Hurricane season in the Atlantic lasts from June 1 to November 30. Most hurricanes make landfall in the U.S. in August or September, when the conditions needed- warm water and cooler air temperature are right. However, a June or November hurricane isn’t unheard of. 

So what do you do if you happen to be at Disney World when a hurricane hits?

Hurricane disney

Credit: Disney

The answer isn’t as simple as “just leave.” Interstates often become parking lots, and flights are often canceled, leaving travelers no choice but to remain where they are and wait for the storm to pass. Luckily Disney is one of the safest places you can be during a hurricane.  The best thing for you to do if you’re unable to evacuate is listen to the instructions of all Cast Members. They have been briefed and trained on what to do in these powerful storms. Day-to-day operations may be suspended or altered, but clear instructions will be given. 

Will the Parks Remain Open?

Disney hurricane

Credit: Wanderful World of Travel

Their first priority will always be the safety of Guests and Cast Members. If they make the decision to close the Parks, it’s because experts have deemed it highly unsafe for anyone to be outside in the weather. Disney tries to keep the Parks open for as long as they possibly can. They understand no one wants to be stuck inside their hotel and won’t close Parks until it is absolutely necessary to do so. In fact,  since 1971, they have only closed due to weather 8 times. Typically only one operating day is impacted. The longest ever hurricane closure was 3 days for Hurricane Irma. 

If they do plan to close, you will be informed at your resort hotel in advance. Sometimes they will close early if a storm is expected to make landfall later in the day. When this happens, you will be told what time the Parks will close when you arrive in the Park that day. There will also be signs throughout the Park as soon as a decision is made.   

What Happens at Hotels? 

Availability for new room reservations will be paused during a storm that is expected to make a significant impact. This is to keep rooms available for locals who have to evacuate their homes and also for what is known as “The Ride Out Crew.” The Ride Out Crew will be your new best friend in the event of a hurricane. These are Cast Members who have volunteered to weather the storm at work to provide guests with necessities and, in many cases, fun!  

Food 

Disney hurricane

Credit: Disney

Food will be available at your resort. Full operations will likely not occur, but food will be available for every guest. Quick service locations make every effort to remain open during the storm, but often table service restaurants will close, and dining reservations will be canceled. In the event that Quick Service locations close, meal kits will be available. Depending on the resort facilities, sometimes there is a buffet available to guests in lieu of Quick Service restaurants. During Hurricane Irma, snacks were even provided to each guest room. 

Activities 

Disney hurricane

Credit: Jill Bivins

Disney does its best to make even a hurricane stay enjoyable. The hotel lobby will become activity central as long as it is safe to do so. Often characters make special appearances in hotel lobbies. It’s not unheard of for a face character to host a story time for kids. Games and special showings of movies usually occur. In many cases, a resort will allow guests to play in the arcade for free. Many bars will remain open under limited hours. Surprisingly, unless the storm is in its worst moments, the pools have been known to stay open, though subject to close at a moment’s notice and completely dependent on ever-changing conditions. Keep in mind none of these special activities are guaranteed. These are just examples of what has happened in the past. Activities will depend on what a resort has available and what their staffing situation is like. 

Refunds? 

If you’ve already traveled, you’re not guaranteed a refund. Operations This is because of Disney’s generous pre-arrival policy: 

 “If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area—or for your place of residence—within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Disney Resort Hotel Package and most room-only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.” View the full policy here

 

Should you cancel? 

That answer is as varied as the storms in Orlando are. There is no predicting whether a storm will be a doozy or nothing more than a nasty thunderstorm. Orlando is several hours inland, but that doesn’t mean it’s never hit full force. The best thing to do is watch the weather closely before your trip in order to make an informed decision.  Disney resorts are safe, but they are not without risk. No two storms are the same so looking at previous storms is not likely to be helpful. Your best bet is to listen to weather experts and make the choice that is best for your family. 

Operations Currently impacted by Hurricane Ian can be found here

 

About Jill Bivins

Jill Bivins has been visiting Disney Parks since she was 2 years old and loves sharing her Disney adventures with the world. She likes to say Disney is in her blood and writing is in her bones — so any time she has the opportunity to combine these loves she is one happy camper! She has a deep abiding love for Epcot and as a die hard Star Wars fan has a serious love for Hollywood Studios as well. When she isn't exploring or writing about Disney Parks, Jill is homeschooling her 7 year old son or pretending to be a farmer on her family homestead (despite being unable to keep even a cactus alive). Find Jill on Instagram @minnieonmain.