What happens if there is a hurricane at Disney World? Although no one wants bad weather when they are at Disney World, it can unfortunately happen as Florida is in a tropical storm and hurricane zone. In this guide we will tell you how to prepare for a hurricane at Disney World, what they have done historically, for instance how many times have hurricanes caused Disney World to close, the Disney World Hurricane policy and other top tips for dealing with hurricanes in the parks.
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Note: Hurricanes are dangerous, health and safety should always be at the forefront of your mind at locations where hurricanes may hit and you should always follow local safety and travel advice.
How Many Hurricanes Have Caused Disney World to Close?
Before we go into details about Disney World hurricane policy it might be interesting for you to know how many hurricanes have caused Disney World to close in the past as I think you will find it surprising.
As Disney World is not on the coast but is inland in Orlando you might be surprised that Disney has closed for hurricanes 8 times in its history.
Hurricane Elena 1985
Hurricane Elena was the first hurricane in Disney World history to force a park closure however it wasn’t for a whole day and wasn’t all the parks. It was only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot that were forced to close early for the hurricane.
Hurricane Floyd 1999
This hurricane was the first hurricane that closed the parks for a whole.
Hurricane Charley 2004
Like hurricane Elena, Hurricane Charley forced Disney World to close early for a day.
Hurricane Francis 2004
Hurricane Francis followed hot on the heels of hurricane Charley but its severity meant that the parks had to close for two whole days, a first in Disney World history.
Hurricane Jeanne 2004
Rounding out the worst year for Hurricanes in Disney World history, Hurricane Jeanne was the third and final hurricane to close Disney World in 2004. Unlike Hurricane Francis this closure was just for a day.
Hurricane Matthew 2016
This hurricane caused an early closure followed by one full day closure of the parks.
Hurricane Irma 2017
Hurricane Irma holds the record for the hurricane for the longest park closure. It caused the early closure of the parks on the first day followed by two days of park closures.
Hurricane Dorian 2019
Dorian caused an early closure of all of the parks except Epcot in 2019.
Hurricane Ian 2022
Hurricane Ian in 2022 forced one of the longest closures in Disney Park history. For this hurricane the parks were shut for 28th and 29th September and while the parks reopened on 30th September this was done with a phased reopening.
The hurricane also forced the closures of some inside resorts. They resorts and hotels affected were the ones where there are separate bungalows and villas and the treetop rooms at Fort Wilderness.
The full list of closures were:
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyages
As well as the
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
- Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf
which were closed for two days, while Disney Springs was closed for one day.
Disney also allowed people with speciality dining, Savi’s Workshop and the Bibbidi Boppity Boutique to be cancelled with no fees.
Disney World Hurricane Policy
If you are traveling to Disney World during hurricane season it is important to familiarise yourself with the Disney World Hurricane Policy just in case.
If a hurricane forecast is issued within 7 days by either the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area—or for your place of residence you may call in advance or reschedule your trip (for those things booked directly with Disney, everything else will be dependent on the terms and conditions of your bookings).
Therefore if you haven’t booked your package yet and are traveling during a hurricane season it might be worth booking directly with Disney as this will give you the most flexibility in case of hurricane.
If you are visiting other theme parks in Orlando during hurricane season be sure to check out our other hurricane related posts like What Happens at Universal Studios during a hurricane and what happens if there is a hurricane at Legoland Florida.
For more information on other Orlando theme park hurricane policies check out this post.
Should I cancel my trip if there is likely to be a hurricane at Disney World?
This is such a hard one to say as it is such a personal choice. While I am not going to recommend anyone actively go to a place during a hurricane things you might want to consider if and when you are considering cancelling your trip are:
How far out is the hurricane and how far out is your trip
if the hurricane is due to hit tomorrow and your trip starts tomorrow it is probably wise to cancel or delay by a few days. However if your trip and hurricane forecast is seven days away then you may want to wait it out before canceling. Hurricanes can change path and strength quickly so monitoring is worth while.
how long is your vacation
if you are going for a month and the hurricane is one day of it then you may want to postpone however if you are only going for a couple of days and the hurricane is hitting over this period then you may well be better rescheduling
Hurricane at Disney World Tips
My first tip if you are visiting and there is a potential for a hurricane at Disney World is don’t panic. Unfortunately hurricanes are not a rarity in the Orlando area so the theme parks in Florida are well prepared for what to do in case of a hurricane hitting. So all you need to to is
Listen to Cast Members
The cast members are Disney World along with weather and news anchors will have up to date information about the potential of tropical storms turning into hurricanes and what to do in the event of a hurricane. Be sure to listen to news and weather updates regular and if you are in the parks or at a Disney World Resort be sure to listen to cast members and follow their instructions now act to do as they have been trained to deal with hurricanes hitting the parks.
Check the Forecast regularly
The think about tropical storms and hurricanes is that things can change quickly, from the severity to the trajectory. We recommend checking in on local news at regular intervals and keep refreshing your go to weather app to see the current path and strength and alter your plans accordingly.
Pack for the Weather
It is important whenever you travel to Disney World, Disneyland California or Disneyland Paris to pack for the weather but it is especially important if you are traveling during hurricane or storm season in Florida.
We recommend packing ponchos, an extra set of clothes and shoes that can deal with getting wet (for this reason we usually take a pair of crocs with us to Disney World).
One of the things we have found in the parks in heavy rain (not hurricanes though) is that although some rides may close, the lines for outdoor rides that remain open ill be short as everyone else heads indoor to escape the rain. If you have a poncho with you then you will be able to enjoy the short queues without getting too wet.
We also recommend packing some items that will help protect your electronics. If you are going to the water parks in Orlando such as Aquatica, Volcano Bay or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, we recommend taking a water proof phone cover. If you have one of these and you are going to be int he parks during severe downpours we recommend putting your phone in this as your bag is likely to get drenched and your electronics will not be well protected without one.
If you don’t have one of these we recommend going to the parks with a few plastic bags and some ziplock bags which you can use to protect some of your more valuable or sensitive items and any important documents that you are carrying with your.
Have food in your room
Whether you are staying on site or off site, if a hurricane hits and is severe enough to close the parks for a day (which has happened only on a handful of occasions at Disney World) then you will want to have plenty of food and drink with you. Even in a resort hotel you will be asked to wait out a hurricane in your room and the dining and room service menus will be limited and likely have very long waits. Therefore we recommend having a good amount of food and snacks just in case.
We also recommend having plenty of bottled water with you in case the water goes out during the hurricane.
Know where to take refuge in the parks
As Florida has storms and strong rain showers through the rain season it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with good places to take refuge during a downpour if you are traveling during the rainy season even if you are not traveling during a hurricane.
We have rainy day guides for all the parks (click on the links below for more information):
- Tips for visiting Animal Kingdom in the Rain
- Tips for visiting Epcot in the Rain
- Tips for visiting Hollywood Studios in the Rain
- Tips for visiting Magic Kingdom in the Rain
However generally speaking if you are in the parks during the rain we recommend heading for – a quick service restaurant (the character dining and table service restaurants will likely be fully booked but in severe weather you might be lucky enough to grab a last minute reservation), shops and shopping arcades, indoor attractions such as Mickey’s Philharmagic and Great Moments with Mr Lincoln to name but a few.
Cancel or Reschedule your Trip
If a hurricane is forecast 7 days before your arrival then there are some caveats at some resorts relating to cancellations and rescheduling of holidays. If you don’t fancy dealing with a hurricane on your vacation and you have refund options then you could consider canceling or rescheduling your trip for outside of rainy or hurricane season.
What happens during a Hurricane at Disney World FAQs
Can you cancel your Walt Disney World Vacation or Tickets in event of a hurricane
As we said above, Disney World cast members are well versed in hurricane preparedness and there are lots of policies in place to deal with hurricanes including cancellation policies.
If you have cancelled your Disney World vacation package or tickets with Disney directly then you are covered under their hurricane policy. This means that if a hurricane is forecast within seven days of your trip either in Orlando or in your place of residence then you are entitled to a refund or reschedule.
What happens at Disney World Resorts during a hurricane
Disney World Resort staff are well trained to deal with a hurricane and the resorts have been built with hurricanes in mind. Our best advice if you are staying at a Disney World Resort during a hurricane is to listen to all instructions given to your by cast members and follow them to the letter.
Also be prepared with food and water in your room before a hurricane is due to arrive just in case.
In some ways the resorts are the best place to stay during a hurricane. Not only because the staff are well trained and the resorts have been built with hurricane protection but also because the staff do their best to keep the Disney magic alive even during a hurricane. Therefore they will do their best to schedule some meet and greets and games etc during hurricanes when parks are closed (not guaranteed).
If the hurricane becomes particularly strong you may be asked to stay in your room or for everyone to shelter in a room with no windows but again Disney staff are well trained and just follow their instructions.
When do the parks reopen after a hurricane?
This is a really hard one to answer because it will have a lot to do with severity and impact. Some hurricanes have caused the parks to close for a few days while other only have forced an early closure. Rest adduced Disney staff will do their best to reopen the parks as soon as they can and as soon as it is safe to do so. Safety is their paramount concern.
hurricane Ian we will update this post. However if this goes ahead it is likely that shows and parades will be cancelled for performers safety.
Have you traveled to Disney World during a hurricane? We would love to hear your experience below?