Here’s What Happens When A Hurricane Hits Disney World

Since Walt Disney World happens to be located in hurricane territory, Disney has had to come up with plans that will keep both guests and cast members safe in case a storm does hit.

Epcot in the rain

Hurricane season is a few months away, we hope!, but still we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what preparations and precautions are in place.

One of Disney’s four keys (essential things that cast members uphold to make the park run smoothly) is safety! Here are some of the ways Disney keeps both guests and cast members safe and happy!

Attraction Closures

Fortunately, Orlando is far enough inland that it doesn’t usually feel the full force of a hurricane — in most cases the worst Walt Disney World will see is heavy storms.

If there is a hurricane looming in the distance and the park is getting serious rains and lightning, the park may remain open, but will close rides that are located outside. These include rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, and Test Track. This can happen before the hurricane reaches Orlando, or when a hurricane has been reduced from full-blown status to a tropical storm.

Slinky Dog Dash Entrance

This does not always mean that all outdoor entertainment will be canceled, because Disney has a few rainy day options up their sleeves! So, as long as there’s no menacing lightning or dangerous winds, splash around and have a good time if you ever find yourself in this situation.

See our readers’ Rainy Day Tips here!

Park Closure

Sadly, sometimes Disney World does have to close altogether. We’ve seen it happen several times over the years — take a look at our report on the first major closure of Walt Disney World back in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd.

Hurricane Irma 2017

If the parks do close, guests will likely find themselves stuck within their resort unable to enjoy the theme parks they paid so much to come and see. Which is a total bummer, but safety is more important than fun sometimes! We have some first-hand reports from our readers who have been stuck at Walt Disney World during a hurricane — here’s a report from a family who stayed at the resort back 2017 during Hurricane Irma.

Disney can also choose to close the park midday weather permitting. This can sometimes even happen a day or two before the actual storm has hit. What this means is that cast members would help to evacuate the parks as quickly as possible by using more exits and by closing off rides and merchandise shops.  Often times, the guests will know the park is closing early in advance.

Shelter in Place

If you find yourself at Disney World when an actual hurricane hits, Disney will ask you to shelter in place until the hurricane passes. This would typically mean that you would have to remain at your resort for the duration of the storm. Disney has a large number of precautions and arrangements in place for this.

Food offered by Disney during Hurricane Irma

They will make sure that guests have a large number of food options and they will even set up a few events in the lobby to make the time pass a bit more quickly.

Magical Moments

Sometimes, if the parks have had to close for a weather-related emergency like a hurricane, Disney will make a few magical moments happen. Disney still wants to do its best to make your trip memorable and magical even during a storm.  A few rare characters may have meet-and-greets in the lobbies of the Disney resorts. Those characters may even sit with the kiddos to watch a Disney movie in the lobby since Disney sometimes offers movie marathons as well.

Minnies Holiday Dine
Minnie Mouse meets a young fan

Hurricane Ride-Out Crew for Cast Members

This is a really cool option that Disney has in place that helps ensure the Disney resorts are well-staffed to take care of guests — and also to ensure that cast members are well taken care of, too. Cast members can volunteer to sign up to help in the event of a hurricane. This group of volunteers is known as the “Ride-Out Crew,” as they will be working, riding out the storm with the guests.

Part of the ride-out crew during Hurricane Irma

This may mean working for long stretches of hours. It can also mean that cast members will be away from home for the entirety of the hurricane while assisting guests at resorts.

Disney knows what a sacrifice this is for the cast members, so the company makes sure that they are looked after while they attend to the guests. Cast members are typically fed and set up with accommodations. Sometimes they are even paid double-time for the duration of the hurricane.

Refunds for Guests Who Haven’t Traveled Yet

Whew! It’s good to know that if Orlando’s National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning within seven days of your vacation, you can contact Walt Disney World’s guest services to cancel or reschedule your vacation. You won’t lose anything if Mother Nature decides to rain on your parade!

Disney will work with you to cancel theme park tickets, hotel accommodations, and dining reservations, free of charge. If you choose to reschedule your vacation, they will help you with those accommodations as well. You will just have to pay if there are any increases in the cost of your new arrangements.

Fortunately, severe hurricanes don’t often affect Walt Disney World that seriously. But in the cases when they do, it is comforting knowing that Disney will be there to make sure you still have a magical vacation.

Have you ever been stuck at Disney during a hurricane? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Remember to tag us in your Disney photos @allearsnet!

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6 Replies to “Here’s What Happens When A Hurricane Hits Disney World”

  1. We were scheduled to fly down to Orlando for a week in the Animal Kingdom Lodge the day Hurricane Matthew was supposed to hit. Like the crazy people we are, instead of cancelling we decided to go down 2 days early and ride out the storm down there rather than deal with travel cancellations after the fact. We were able to reserve a room (note if you want to try this, the hotels book up fast with people evacuating from the coast). We were in a villa with a kitchen so stocked up with food as we were told the restaurants would not be serving during the storm. The did provide cold sandwiches at one point. Riding out the hurricane itself was a blast! Like being at the best summer camp ever. Characters in the lobby, arts and crafts and more movies in the community room, cake decorating in the restaurant and the arcade was free all day. Some of the animals stayed out through the storm (cast members tried to get them in but they weren’t having it) and we got to watch them as they romped and played in the rain and mud – they were having a great time too. The cast was exceptional and did everything they could to keep people safe and comfortable. Altogether an unforgettable experience.

  2. August 13th, 2004 – Hurricane Charley surprised everyone by suddenly moving from Tampa and heading straight for DisneyWorld. My wife, daughter and I were staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge and when we headed out to Epcot, we were notified that the Park would be open for Resort guests only and would be closing mid-afternoon.
    We saw the preparations being made for the Hurricane’s arrival. Trees, planters, and anything that was a potential problem with the wind, rain etc, were all fastened down. At the Lodge, all doors, windows etc were also made safe, with sandbags etc.
    Charley arrived in the evening and Animal Kingdom staff were well prepared. Continuous weather reports were shown on a number of televisions set up in the Lobby and bagged luncheons were handed to all guests along with a list of ‘Do’s and Dont’s’ during the storm. This was our one and only hurricane experience and we were excited and perhaps a little nervous.
    Cast members provided excellent service throughout and when we received the ‘All Clear’ the next morning, the bus taking us to Epcot passed so much devastation and we were so appreciative of the extra care afforded us by Disney.

  3. We were staying at the Boardwalk this past September (2018) when hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas. Our main road home I95 was closed and it was recommended we not try to drive for a couple of days. The staff was very helpful finding us a room for two additional nights with a discounted rate. We had toi move to All Star Sports which was great for us since we had never stayed there before. We had one day left to go to the parks, so we spent the afternoon and evening in Epcot. The next day we used our pass to go to the water park and to play miniature golf. Since the hurricane had hit to the north of Orlando, we had two wonderful, additional days at WDW.

  4. Years ago we used to quickly put a WDW trip together right after a hurricane would hit somewhere close there. We would have the place to ourselves for several days before people started trickling back. It was heaven!

  5. We were at All-Star Movies during Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. The parks closed for one day. We were told to stay in our rooms during the hurricane, and they brought us flashlights, and we stocked up on stuff from the food court beforehand. The hurricane eye was over us about 8am the next morning, and I can say it was quite blustery. After it cleared out, we spent the day wandering the grounds of all three All-Stars. There were crews out immediately clearing trees, and general cleaning. The food court and arcade opened by noon. The pools were flooded that day but were in great shape by the next day. We got back to the parks the next day, and everything looked great!

    1. Hey, I was there during Jeanne in 2004, too!! It was our first trip with 5 of our kids ranging in age from 10-9months!! No food was offered, only what you could scrounge from the gift shop. However, after what seemed like 50years, as Little Mermaid and Pearl Harbor were on a continuous loop, we were able to eat real food and go outside!! The CM’s were tremendous!! I couldn’t believe how they treated us, after all, this was hurricane #3, #4 was coming soon. Because of the excellent service is the reason why we bought into DVC and made Disney our go to vacation.

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