What Should You Expect at Walt Disney World during Hurricane Ian?
Hurricane season largely left the coastal United States alone until the past two weeks.
Now, Central Florida residents and tourists are understandably concerned about the current trajectory of Hurricane Ian.
This dangerous weather event has already forced evacuations in several parts of Florida. It should touch down in Orlando Wednesday or Thursday.
What should you expect at Walt Disney World during Hurricane Ian? Here’s what we know.
Disney Will Make Park Preparations
Please take a moment to consider all the loose objects outside your home. Now imagine said objects in a hurricane.
As the movie Twister ably demonstrated, anything sharp or heavy becomes a dangerous weapon…even cows.
For this reason, cast members perform different jobs this week. First, they’ll remove some of the structures that you see every day at the parks.
Anything that’s unsecured will either get tied down or temporarily removed. As you might imagine, that’s a tall task that takes time and resources.
Walt Disney World currently celebrates the Halloween season with its decorations. Unfortunately, workers must remove many of those enhancements as well.
Similarly, the parts of the parks and resorts under construction or refurbishment require safeguarding.
Guests entering the parks today will notice something unusual. You’ll find plastic at some odd locations, including the entrance kiosks.
Disney wraps the ID scanners in plastic to protect them during inclement weather. Unfortunately, the flying objects I just mentioned could ruin a fingerprint scanner.
Similarly, Disney’s obsession with convenience works against it in situations like this.
You’ll usually find trashcans located within a few steps of wherever you are at Walt Disney World.
These garbage receptacles aren’t heavy, though. So, yup, they could go flying into the air, smacking some unsuspecting guest in the face with garbage.
Nobody wants to explain to the emergency room doctor that they got hit in the head by a trashcan.
So, cast members must also add weights to secure the trashcans during the storm.
The next time you’re at the park, look around and think about which of the objects you notice would remain in place in a hurricane. It’s pretty shocking.
Thankfully, Disney has designed the major landmarks to survive hurricanes, though. So you don’t need to worry about Cinderella Castle.
The Lines Are Short
Most people are smart enough to know to come in out of the rain. I’m not one of them, as I happen to love the rain.
If you’re anything like me, you might feel adventurous this week. You may perceive a park visit as a rare opportunity.
I’m guessing you anticipate small crowds at the parks since most people will go somewhere dry instead.
Well, you’d be right. During the two most recent days when Magic Kingdom closed early due to hurricanes, crowds were virtually non-existent.
The wait time sign at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train indicated 30 minutes but proved even shorter. And this was several hours before the early closure.
At EPCOT’s World Showcase, you could virtually walk on Frozen Ever After.
So, if you are ambitious and don’t mind getting wet, the parks present an opportunity…as long as they don’t close.
Suppose Disney shuts down at an unexpected moment. In that case, you’ll fight everyone else for a seat on the bus…and there won’t be many of those since cast members are busy elsewhere.
Make no mistake here. You’re taking a chance by visiting the park on a day when you know it’s gonna rain a lot, and the place may close early.
People Will Livestream
During Hurricane Irma, Walt Disney World closed its parks early. However, there really wasn’t much need.
Images from the parks told the story. Few people willingly risked the parks despite all the safety precautions in place.
Only a few brave souls visited on those days, and many of them livestreamed the event. Here is a Justin Scarred video from that day:
You’ll notice that the crowds diminish when the rain starts. I vividly recall watching a different livestream from EPCOT’s World Showcase on this day.
Right as the streamer noted that he hadn’t seen anyone for a full minute, another person walked into the camera shot…and they were filming, too.
I say all this so that you’ll know you can monitor the action from your home. Some people will show up at the parks to livestream all the happenings.
The Action Will Be at the Resorts
Disney officials will do everything possible to encourage guests to stay at the hotels rather than venture to the parks. That’s just good customer service right there.
Disney will take several steps to encourage guests to stay. For starters, costumed cast members will hold court at the resorts.
During a recent hurricane closure, guests at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge watched with surprise as the Country Bears entered the lobby.
While we see these characters more today, they were extremely rare at the time.
Meanwhile, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort trotted out favorites like Lilo & Stitch, while Disney’s Contemporary Resort hosted Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
You should expect some Disney characters to appear at all Walt Disney World hotels this week.
Also, cast members will host activities to stave off guests’ boredom. Some of it is similar to the pool games you’ll find during a regular visit.
I’m talking about Disney trivia, dancing, and the like. However, you’ll also find some board games and other activities.
Kristen Bell famously led a game of bingo during a 2017 hurricane. She was stuck at the hotel like everyone else and used the opportunity to make new friends.
Next, as an FYI, Disney has historically gone low-tech with its options to reduce cellular usage. It tries to save that bandwidth in case others need it.
Management knows that people are safe within the friendly confines of a Disney hotel. So, their jobs are entertainment and ensuring that guest needs are met.
Meanwhile, guests have a surprisingly great time during what should be a terrifying situation.
They receive a rare amount of face time with Disney characters. Plus, cast members cater to their every whim. It’s the definition of making the best of a bad situation.
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Feature Photo: (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)