Since Hurricane Irma is on track to reach Florida by this weekend, your Walt Disney World vacation could be impacted. While it’s too early to tell if the storm will be bad enough in Central Florida for the Happiest Place on Earth to close, the park has closed before due to storms. In fact, last year it was closed for Hurricane Matthew, the first time in over a decade the park closed for a hurricane.
In the latest public advisory from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 8:00 a.m. AST, the agency said Irma has become a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at 175 mph. It is moving west at 14 mph and is about 270 miles east of Antigua.
The most recent projection as the hurricane passing over Puerto Rico on Wednesday and over Cuba on Saturday. By Sunday morning, the outer bands of the storm are expected to reach South Florida. Although the storm is several days away, Florida Governor Rick Scott has already declared a State of Emergency for all 67 Florida counties. That includes Orange County, where Disney World is located.
Walt Disney World has closed for hurricanes only four times in the past. Last year, all four theme parks closed early on Thursday, October 6 and was closed for Friday, October 7. The parks were back up and running for Saturday, October 7.
According to Disney’s Hurricane Q&A page, if a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or where you live, you can call (407) 939-7675 to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package. Room only reservations can also be cancelled easily without facing charges if booked through Disney.
Here’s the policy from Disney’s site:
If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area—or for your place of residence—within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney. If you have products and services provided by third-party suppliers included in your vacation—such as airlines, hotels, car rental agencies or vacation insurance companies—you will continue to be responsible for any non-refundable payments, as well as cancellation or change fees assessed by those suppliers. The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences.
Although no hurricane warnings have been issued for the Orlando area yet, Scott’s State of Emergency declaration means that Disney’s disaster relief center is on alert, Theme Park Tourist notes. This means that staff members will be ready to implement a “tie down” process to secure areas that could be damaged by wind if needed. They will also be planning on taking care of guests at the park when the storm hits.
In the case of Matthew, Disney staff allowed guests at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds to be moved to other hotels at no extra cost. An episode of ABC’s The View was supposed to be taped at EPCOT, but that was cancelled. Other events, including Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, were cancelled and cast members started the “tie down” process to make sure everything was secure at the parks on October 5.
Before Hurricane Matthew, Disney hadn’t closed for a hurricane in over a decade. In 2004, the park was closed from September 4 to September 5 for Hurricane Frances and on September 26 for Hurricane Jeanne. The first time the park closed for a hurricane was on September 15, 1999 for Hurricane Floyd.