Since its 1971 opening, Walt Disney World has been the ultimate vacation destination for millions of people from all over the world.
Each of these Walt Disney World guests has left the troubles of the real world behind to, as the sign says, enter worlds of “yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” However, there have been seven occasions when the outside world has intruded on Walt Disney World, forcing the “Most Magical Place on Earth” to unexpectedly close.
Given how often hurricanes and tropical storms strike Florida, it can be considered a minor miracle that Disney World went nearly 28 years without an unscheduled closure due to weather. However that streak ended in September 1999 thanks to Hurricane Floyd.
With the storm bearing down, Disney closed all four Disney World theme parks, Downtown Disney, and the waterparks early in the afternoon of September 14, 1999. At the time, the company announced that they would be closed on the following day as well. However, after Floyd’s path took an unexpected change, Disney did end up opening Animal Kingdom and the Downtown Disney area the following day.
The most well-known unplanned closure of Disney World came just under two years after Hurricane Floyd, in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001. While the parks had already opened for the day, management decided to close them after the scope of the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania became known, due partially to fear that Disney World could be the next target.
Without informing guests what happened unless they specifically asked, cast members formed “human walls” to gently push guests out of each of the theme parks. Each guest received a complimentary ticket as they exited, and Disney went out of their way to accommodate stranded travelers. The parks reopened the following day, albeit with a slew of new security features at their entrances, many of which remain today.
Walt Disney World was hit with three more weather-related closures in the summer and fall of 2004. The first came in August of that year, when Hurricane Charley forced the closure of Disney’s parks on August 13.
Less than a month later, Hurricane Frances forced closure of the parks on both September 4 and September 5. The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Typhoon Lagoon reopened on September 6, while Hollywood Studios (then known as the Disney-MGM Studios), Animal Kingdom, and Blizzard Beach remained shuttered until the following day. Finally on September 26, the resort’s parks were closed due to Hurricane Jeanne.
Following the trifecta of 2004 closures, Walt Disney World wouldn’t see another unexpected shut down until October 2016. Hurricane Matthew forced the parks to close at 5 p.m. on October 6. The parks remained closed on October 7.
The following year, Disney was once again forced to close due to Hurricane Irma. The parks and Disney Springs were all closed by 9 p.m. on September 9 and remained closed for the following two days.
While we never like to see Disney closed for any reason, obviously there are some situations outside of Disney’s control that makes unplanned closures unavoidable.
Have you been at Disney World when it had to close unexpectedly? Share your memories of the experience with us below!
And be prepared for what happens if you should get caught in a hurricane or just a week of really rotten weather during your vacation by checking out:
- Here’s What Happens When A Hurricane Hits Disney World
- Who’ll Stop the Rain? Rainy Day Tips from ALL EARS® Readers
- 5 Things That Happen on Rainy Days in Disney World
- Disneyland: Rainy Day Tips
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