Hurricane Dorian Day One at Walt Disney World
You’ve heard all about Hurricane Dorian on the news. For the past few days, you’ve wondered whether this storm would affect Walt Disney World. While it appears Walt Disney World escaped Dorian’s damage, we do know what happened on the Disney campus today. Here’s what happened on day one of Hurricane Dorian at Walt Disney World.
Running a theme park requires a great deal of forethought. Where you see immaculate theming, cast members recognize countless pieces that fit together seamlessly to build that illusion. At no time is this more apparent than during hurricane preparations.
Disney employees spent a lot of time on September 3rd earning their merit badges in Knot Tying. They tied down everything that violent winds could dislodge. Signage at your favorite attractions is something that you take for granted each day. During Dorian, however, these visuals are in danger.
Cast members took the most durable ropes possible and connected them to all loose pieces. The visual of the situation is striking. Images and videos showed ropes every few feet, protecting the items in question from taking flight.
The other unusual consideration involved the flags at Walt Disney World. These items generally fade into the background in favor of more exciting visuals at the parks. However, many flags are in place around the parks, and they had to be taken down. Otherwise, they might end up in Tampa.
Another oddity is the outdoor seating at various restaurants. The chairs that we take for granted are omnipresent at Walt Disney World. In the event of stormy weather, these chairs become flying weapons. So, cast members took them inside where they’d remain protected from the elements.
This reasonable procedure caused some confusion among guests. When people see a table, they naturally look for chairs. After a few minutes, these folks gave up and ate while standing up. The whole thing seemed like a picnic where someone forgot to bring the chairs.
Yes, Disney Tried to Reduce Its Plastic Usage, But…
The plastic wrap protects many electronic devices at Walt Disney World. The entrance gates that we take for granted employ complex fingerprint scanning to grant park admission. If anything happened to these devices, we’d be back to handheld scanners again. The last time that happened, guests stood in line for two hours to get into Magic Kingdom.
For this reason, cast members encased the unused entrance kiosks in plastic. Since very few guests braved the parks on Tuesday — and it felt like 10 percent of the ones who did were streamers daring the fates to capture a memorable video – admission booths weren’t used much. Employees could protect most of them while still allowing entrance to the foolhardy few.
Of course, the plastic wasn’t just for the kiosks. No one can predict which loose objects will fly into the parks during a hurricane. Anyone who has watched the movie Twister knows that even the most mundane objects become threatening at high velocities. So, the plastic wrap wards off some of the flotsam and jetsam.
For park officials, this concern became oddly problematic in one subtle way. I’ve mentioned before that Disney carefully positions trash cans a few steps away from restaurants to prevent garbage. Well, those garbage receptacles aren’t heavy enough to stay in place during a hurricane. They had to get wrapped in protective plastic and weighted down with ropes, too.
Plenty of Signs, Mostly Empty Parks
On day one of Hurricane Dorian’s American approach, Orlando officials kept all plans fluid. Orlando International Airport closed on Tuesday as a precautionary measure, and Disney executives were similarly safety-focused.
Early on, we learned that Magic Kingdom would close at 3 p.m. EST on Tuesday. Similarly, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom closed at 2 p.m. EST. Obviously, the management team needed to protect guests at the most trafficked theme park, and they had a vested interest in preserving the recently opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, too. Then, there’s the matter of the animals who live at Animal Kingdom.
However, Disney didn’t shut down the entire campus. They unexpectedly decided to keep Disney Springs open until 8 p.m. EST and Epcot in operation until 7 p.m. EST. They’d initially announced 3 p.m. EST closures for both locales. This decision led to an unusual circumstance wherein videos of the World Showcase revealed a lifeless park.
I’m not exaggerating here. At one point, I watched two streamers interact with one another for a few minutes. After they said goodbye, one headed in a clockwise direction while the other went the opposite way. A few minutes later, they reencountered each other, having seen virtually no one else. The two of them accidentally circled the World Showcase without bumping into anyone else until they saw one another once more. It was crazy.
Epcot remained so empty that when it technically closed at 7 p.m., cast members weren’t forcing anyone out of the park. They had no reason to do so. The skies were only partially cloudy at the time.
Fun Times at Disney Resorts
I’ve joked about the sanity of the folks who visited the parks on day one of Hurricane Dorian. Honestly, these fearless individuals received tremendous rewards for their efforts. Many of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World had the shortest lines I’ve ever seen.
At one point, the line for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was 15 minutes while Seven Dwarfs Mine Train right across from it was also 15 minutes. Anyone who chose Winnie the Pooh was insane. But standing in line for Disney rides is conventional. The people who stayed at their resorts on day one claimed the most interesting stories.
As has become a regular occurrence, Disney held character interactions at official resorts. Guests delightedly exchanged stories about which characters they met at their hotels. The list was different at each one, and the costumes were also unique to the hotels. It’s a matter of proper theming from Disney’s perspective.
Hotel managers didn’t stop there, though. Disney resorts also hosted unique restaurant offerings. While signs everywhere stated that popular restaurants had ample availability, cast members knew that many guests wouldn’t want to journey beyond the hotel. These fortunate few ate exceptionally well yesterday.
While I won’t list every deal, I’ll say that Disney’s BoardWalk Inn hosted a delicious buffet at a price that will blow your mind. It cost $15 for adults and $8 for children. Over at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, one of the best restaurants on campus, Whispering Canyon Café, sold its decadent All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Skillets for $15 per person!!! Those things are a steal at $35 per person!
Perhaps my favorite news item from day one had nothing to do with food, though. At least one Disney hotel created a makeshift bar for parents who just needed a drink during a strange but memorable day at the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Okay, that should have you brought up to speed on day one of Hurricane Dorian. I stress that this situation is fluid. Please be aware of the fact that others have already suffered mightily from the impact of this horrific natural disaster. Please be safe, my friends. Don’t do anything reckless just so that you might have an exciting story to share later.