New Hurricane Warning System To Save Thousands of Disney World Guests, Report Claims

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A satellite image shows a large hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico approaching the southeastern United States. An inset photo, highlighted with a red circle and arrow, depicts a crowded day at Disney World with its prominent castle under cloudy skies.

Credit: Inside The Magic

A new hurricane warning system will be up and running to assist in giving Walt Disney World Resort guests a better heads up on powerful and deadly storms heading into Central Florida as the official 2024 hurricane season begins this weekend.

A dramatic image of Cinderella's castle at Disney World with dark, stormy skies and multiple lightning strikes illuminating the background.
Image Credit: Inside the Magic

New Hurricane Tracking System Set To Change the Way Disney World Guests Are Warned About Powerful, Deadly Storms

Bill Ramstrom has always been captivated by hurricanes. “There was this hurricane when I was about 8, and it was just so interesting to see the power of nature and how adults and parents and the school and everybody else just had to get out of the way of it,” he recalled. This early experience ignited his passion for meteorology, leading him to devour information on the subject.

As he grew older, his interest expanded into programming, especially as computers became more accessible. As a senior software engineer at NOAA’s hurricane research division, Ramstrom has contributed to several significant projects, the most notable being the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast Systems (HAFS). This advanced computer model, which became fully operational last year, aims to enhance hurricane prediction accuracy.

“It performed very well last year,” Ramstrom said. “We were delighted with how the numbers looked with it.” One essential advancement of HAFS is its improved grid, or nest, which offers higher-resolution data. “Just like with your phone, if you get more pixels in your camera, you get a nicer looking photo,” Ramstrom explained. “We have the same sort of idea of simulating the hurricane.”

A hurricane evacuation sign with the Magic Kingdom castle and stormy weather in the background
Credit: Inside The Magic

Until recently, the computational power and resolution needed for accurate hurricane forecasting were insufficient. However, with NOAA’s latest weather and climate supercomputers launched in 2022, some of the highest-resolution forecasts are now possible. “It gives you more confidence that the model is capturing what’s happening in nature.”

Since its experimental debut in 2019, HAFS has improved storm track predictions by 10 to 15%. In 2022, HAFS was the only model to accurately predict the rapid intensification of Hurricane Ian to a Category 5 storm off Florida’s southwest coast, even while still in its testing phase. “I was also involved in flying the hurricane at the time, so it was a whirlwind,” Ramstrom said.

Dr. Andrew Hazelton, an associate scientist at NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, collects and evaluates data for the HAFS model. “Ian was one that we were able to simulate well because we had aircraft in there throughout, had a lot of data going into it,” he noted. Beyond traditional forecasts, HAFS also provides new graphics and visualizations of developing storms, which are unique among the models.

The state of Florida with a hurricane in the background and a picture frame showing the location of Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Inside The Magic

For example, Hazelton demonstrated how wind shear and dry air tried to disrupt Hurricane Ian before landfall but failed. “So it’s coming in, you know, basically trying to get into the inner core. But then, we see because it doesn’t get all the way in there, you know the storm is able to get, become a Category four … five storm.”

These advanced simulations help forecasters from the hurricane center to local weather experts analyze storms more accurately, providing better forecasts for those in affected areas. HAFS has made significant strides and continues to show great promise. Despite ongoing challenges, such as managing multiple nests, the team’s success thus far suggests a bright future for hurricane forecasting.

The new Hurricane Analysis and Forecast Systems (HAFS) is a cutting-edge tracking model that significantly enhances the accuracy of hurricane predictions, offering invaluable support to Disney World and its guests. By providing high-resolution data and precise simulations, HAFS allows Disney World to anticipate better and prepare for severe weather, ensuring park visitors’ and staff’s safety and well-being.

This advanced warning system enables the park to implement timely evacuations, adjust schedules, and communicate effectively with guests about potential threats, ultimately minimizing disruptions and safeguarding thousands of people during hurricane season.

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