If there is one downfall about having Disney World be located in Orlando, it is that the weather can get quite stormy during the summer months — and at times, hurricanes may affect the theme park as a whole.
When Walt Disney was scouting where he should put Disney World, ensuring that there was enough room, it was accessible, and keeping it away from hurricanes was a major priority. Miami and Ormond Beach were options; however, they were much too close to the ocean, and Ocala did not have enough roadways, so Orlando, a city 60 miles from the coast, was chosen.
Although hurricanes do hit Orlando, the effects are typically not as bad as towns close to shore. When wondering how many times Disney World has had to close due to a hurricane, some may think that the number would be quite large considering how often Florida receives hurricanes, but the number is actually under 10.
Disney World has only had to close eight times due to hurricanes since opening in 1971. Below is a list of each hurricane closure recorded since Disney World opened:
Hurricane Elena – 1985
This was the first hurricane that forced Disney World to close down due to incoming storms. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot were the only parks to close, and it wasn’t even for the entire day. But on August 31, 1985, Hurricane Elena made history and forced an early 5 pm closure of Walt Disney World for the first time ever.
Hurricane Floyd – 1999
This was the first full-day closure at Disney World due to a hurricane. Disney World closed early on September 14, 1999 and stayed closed for the full day of September 15th, finally reopening on September 16th.
Hurricane Charley – 2004
Next came Hurricane Charley leading to an early park closure on August 13, 2004, with a reopening the very next day.
Hurricane Francis – 2004
Not long after Hurricane Charley temporarily closed Disney World, then came Hurricane Francis, which resulted in the theme park closing on September 4th and 5th.
Hurricane Jeanne – 2004
Hurricane Jeanne capped off a particularly rough year for Disney World guests as the park closed for the third time due to severe weather. Hurricane Jeanne resulted in the park being closed on September 26, 2004.
Hurricane Matthew – 2016
2016 saw the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, which prompted Disney World to close early on October 6, 2016, and remain closed on October 7, 2016.
Hurricane Irma – 2017
The longest hurricane-related closure occurred when Hurricane Irma arrived in 2017, prompting an early closure on September 9th and resulting in the park remaining closed on September 10th and 11th.
All Star Movies @ Disney after Irma
Looks to be only minimal damage. pic.twitter.com/KeBrdG4nYx
— Daniel McDonald (@DmcDT) September 11, 2017
Hurricane Dorian – 2019
Considering the pending arrival of Hurricane Fiona recently lead Florida Governor DeSantis to declare a state of emergency for many counties, six closures due to hurricanes is not a bad number at all. It seems Walt made a pretty good location pick when scouting Florida for a good theme park spot!
Plus, if you are ever in Disney and stuck in a hurricane, you are in a very safe place! All of the Walt Disney World Resorts are well-equipped for hurricanes and have been built to withstand them. Last year, when hurricane Elsa arrived in Florida, even though Orlando did not strongly feel her effects, many Disney Resorts had Hurricane Meal Kits ready to go if needed. This way, Guests would not even have to worry about leaving their room if they did not want to.
At Magic Kingdom, major structures like Cinderella Castle are also hurricane-proof, and Disney has even noted that the 50th-anniversary decor on the castle is hurricane-proof, as well. We have seen some of the decor fall off without a hurricane, however.
Have you ever been to Disney World during a hurricane? Let us know in the comments below!