Hurricane season will be upon us sooner than you think and analysts are projecting an above-average season. Uh oh! Does that mean stormy skies around Disney World?
It’s possible! We’re wondering what the rest of the year in Disney World is going to look like and hurricane season can have a big effect on that. So, take a look at what the weather analysts are saying with us and we’ll help you figure out how an above-active hurricane season could affect your next Disney trip!
Analysts are Projecting an Above-Average Hurricane Season
As we’ve said, analysts are currently projecting an above-average level of activity in the 2020 hurricane season, June 1st through November 30th. According to Accuweather‘s hurricane expert, Dan Kottlowski, we could very plausibly have a few storms that impact the mainland of the United States.
How many major storms are expected?
According to Kottlowski and his team, we could see 14-18 tropical storms during the upcoming season. On top of that, seven to nine of the 2020 storms are likely to become hurricanes and two to four are predicted to strengthen into major hurricanes (those are the kind we have to worry about for Disney World!). For reference, a typical year has around 12 storms with six becoming hurricanes and around three becoming major hurricanes. Yikes.
Just because a storm exists doesn’t mean it has to make landfall in the United States. Most storms will dissipate off the coast and never even make it to a threatening point. However, some storms will likely make “impact” whether by moving directly inland or by bordering the coast for enough time to cause damage. This year, forecasters are predicting two to four impacts in the Atlantic basin. And you guessed it, that’s Florida area.
What are the warning signs?
We’re wondering how the forecasters predict a hurricane season. According to Accuweather, a lot of it has to do with water temperatures. Kottlowski says that “warm water is actually what drives a lot of seasons.” That means that meteorologists will be keeping a close eye on water temperatures in the coming weeks.
In general, 82° Fahrenheit is the temperature where hurricanes start to become a concern. This year, water temperatures in the Caribbean have ALREADY hit 80° Fahrenheit and it’s MARCH. Whew. That means water temperatures will continue to rise for the next two months leading up to hurricane season and will likely make for a perfect storm of sorts.
With such high water temperatures so early it’s no wonder that we’ve been seeing storms earlier and earlier each year. May storms are becoming much more common. According to First Coast News, the warmer sea-surface temperatures that we’re already seeing will pair with the warmer air temperatures that are becoming typical. This dangerous duo could act as more energy and fuel for multiple storms.
What does this mean for Florida?
What does this mean for the home of Disney World? Florida is on the front lines of the hurricane season; this has been proven time and time again when hurricanes make landfall in the United States. So, yes, an above-average active hurricane season is a concern for the state. In fact, Kottlowski urged Florida residents that live on or near the coast to go ahead and make hurricane plans. The sentiment was echoed by First Coast News saying, “Know your risks and have a plan because the Atlantic hurricane season will be here before we know it.”
The 2019 Season was Above-Average, Too
The good news is that technically this isn’t anything new. The 2019 hurricane season had an above-average level of activity as well; so the state and Disney World should be ready to handle any storms that make their ways that direction. Still, 2019 showed us that an active hurricane season is no joke.
According to the analysts, the 2019 season actually marked the fourth consecutive year of above-average activity and tied with 1969 for the fourth most-active. The season had a total of 18 storms (remember, 12 is average) and caused more than $11 billion in damages. If 2020 continues as they’re predicting, it will make for half a decade of above-average seasons and potentially another round of significant hurricane damage. (Maybe they need to redefine “average?”)
Click here to learn about the ONLY times Disney World has closed (spoiler alert — it’s mostly due to hurricanes)!
Disney World’s Response to Hurricanes
But what does all of this mean for Disney World?? Disney World is located in Orlando, which means it often falls in or adjacent to hurricane paths. We can’t know for sure whether or not a hurricane will threaten the parks this year; but with an active season, it’s possible. We want YOU to be prepared!
How has Disney handled recent hurricanes?
Let’s take a look at how Disney has handled the last two hurricanes to get an idea of what happens when a significant storm turns its course towards the Most Magical Place on Earth. Just last year, towards the end of hurricane season, Florida had to contend with Hurricane Dorian, a category five hurricane.
In the event of a serious storm Disney will take precautions. In 2019 that meant going so far as to close the theme parks early in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian. So for half the day on September 3rd, the parks closed. However, Hurricane Dorian changed course prompting the parks to reopen the following morning as usual. Ultimately this storm didn’t have too much of an effect on the property which would be the hopeful case with future storms.
Hurricane Irma in 2017 had a much larger effect on the resort. After halting dining reservations and canceling many shows and a Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, all of the theme parks ended up closing for two full days in September as Orlando weathered the storm. Guests were still accommodated at resorts and Disney has a set hurricane protocol, so all was well in the end. The theme parks reopened without too much damage, and that was for a hurricane that passed RIGHT over Orlando!
What if a hurricane threatens your trip?
Even with an active season, very specific circumstances have to occur for a hurricane to threaten your trip; and it’s historically unlikely that a storm will cause significant damages to Disney World property. Still, we MAY have to worry about what will happen to our trips during the upcoming overactive season! The good news is, you don’t have to think too much about your trip being ruined as in most cases, the parks remain open for all of the hurricane season (even an active one!).
Disney actually has an official hurricane policy to protect your plans in the event of a hurricane. If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area OR for where you live within 7 days of your arrival date at Disney World, you can call the Walt Disney Travel Company in most cases to reschedule or cancel your reservations and plans without any cancellation or change fees.
Remember, some of your travel plans may not be made through the Walt Disney Travel Company so if you DO make changes you’ll need to reach out to your airlines, off-property hotels, car rental agencies, or travel insurance companies separately.
Even if you’re stuck IN Disney World during a hurricane, the company will do their best to take care of you. For Hurricane Irma, guests at the resorts were able to purchase packaged meals and snacks in resort food courts and dining locations. If their room was in the same building as the lobby or a common area, there were amenities like movie marathons, children’s activities, and character meet and greets.
Now, hurricane season — even an above-average active one — is no reason to avoid Disney World. Remember Dorian and Irma are the only storms that closed the parks in the past two years! Just be aware that these storms ARE a possibility when you’re traveling during this time. Plus, park closures aren’t the only concern. You shouldn’t travel if government authorities advise against it and you may not be able to if the Orlando airport closes.
If you are traveling during this season, be vigilant about weather announcements. You’ll hear from us and from major news networks when a hurricane becomes a concern so you can gauge your best course of action for travel. Make your plans between June and November, just stay in the loop when you do!
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Have you ever been to Disney World during a hurricane? Let us know in the comments!