Near-Freezing Temperatures Prompt Universal to Shut Down Coaster

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Hulk Coaster

Credit: Universal

One of the best perks of Orlando being a theme park capital of the world is the weather. With Florida sunshine heating the state year-round — and the idea of snow seeming like a fairy tale to locals — theme parks can stay open 365 days a year. Universal Orlando is one of the major theme park resorts in the area that is open all year long, but even in Florida, things can get chilly at the theme park, and it can bring on some major adjustments that have to be made.

Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster
Credit: Jessica Quinn

Although Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure both experience Florida storms, which pose their own set of issues, there is a short amount of time during the winter months where cold weather can interfere with the attractions at Universal Orlando Resort.

Related: Ride “The Incredible Hulk” and Other Rides in a Virtual Visit to Universal Orlando

Earlier this week, theme park reporter bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) was at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and showcased a stalled The Incredible Hulk coaster. One morning, when the temperatures were near freezing in central Florida, the ride had to go down.

The Incredible Hulk not operating this morning due to cold temperature. Currently 40°. 37° earlier.

You may be wondering, why would temperatures affect if a coaster can run on its tracks? I, too, was wondering why the coaster had to close down considering there was no rain, snow, or external element that was physically posing as a visible hazard to the coaster. Thankfully, park fan Brian R. Sanderson has come to the rescue with a very interesting explanation.

At below-zero temperatures, ice or frost rime on the rails would seriously alter several factors on which the ride’s performance has been calculated. Also: the industrial lubricants (grease on the lift hill drive and in the coaster car wheel bearings) tend to solidify at temperatures near freezing. That brings us to…

Near freezing temperatures: in addition to the lubricants freezing up, the polyurethane compounds used in some coaster car wheels can get brittle in colder temperatures. Running the ride when the coaster wheels are too cold can cause splits and cracks in the wheels.

Other factors associated with colder weather: Some modern rides employ light sensitive sensors to time the coasting and braking cycles on the cars. Those sensors sometimes “fog up” in colder weather, rendering them unable to “see” the passing cars. This usually trips an alarm flag in the control system and shuts the ride down.

The Incredible Hulk
Credit: ITM

All of this will also lead to the coaster being unable to run at its typical speed, which would pose a safety hazard for Guests riding. Luckily, Florida does not experience too many days in the year with temperatures that are near freezing, like they were on this particular day. So, unless you are visiting the theme parks during a particularly cold week, you likely won’t see attractions closing day after day while you’re on vacation.

Other coasters such as Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios would also have to close due to occasional low temperatures. Recently, we reported that Rip Ride Rockit underwent a brake run failure due to high winds, so it is important that coasters are always running in the proper weather conditions — including the Marvel-themed Incredible Hulk coaster. And, of course, hurricanes in Florida are an entirely different story.

Have you ever had an attraction at Universal Orlando shut down due to weather? What happened?

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