Written by Joe Lane
Published: August 17, 2004 at 6:31 PM
Friday, August 13 2004 will be a date to remember for millions of Florida residents and tourists. It's a day where Mother Nature showed just how unpredictable she can be. Not only did Hurricane Charley alter his course as predicted by the National Weather Service and countless meteorological organizations, but it strengthened from a Category 2 to a Category 4 in a mere matter of hours. Winds increased from 110 to 155 mph, with storm surges growing from eight to eighteen feet. The resulting chaos left 19 dead and more than half a million without power or homeless.
Charley carved a path north-northwest through the state of Florida, taking it right through Orlando. Immediate concern is naturally for the safety of the people, however, once the ordeal has subsided, theme park fans might hold some interest in how the Orlando parks fared in the high winds of a hurricane. The good news is, the parks withstood the storm surprisingly well.
While Busch Gardens Tampa had been closed all day Friday in anticipation of a direct hit from Charley, the Orlando parks planned on closing around 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
General consensus at all the major parks involved minor damage, mostly to landscaping and other superficial elements, not to mention scattered debris. News reports and articles are easy to come by, if you search for them. Phone lines were jammed this past weekend as Guests called in to ask about park operating hours.
At the Walt Disney World Resort, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the Disney-MGM Studios were open on time Saturday morning. Animal Kingdom remained closed, reportedly due to the fact that there weren't enough Cast Members to keep all four parks fully staffed. Universal Orlando parks opened about thirty minutes late while workers cleared debris. SeaWorld opened three hours after their normal operating hours, because they suffered some damage on the theater seating area for their Fusion water sport show. The show did not perform Saturday. Discovery Cove was closed all day Saturday as workers went to great lengths to fix the damaged landscape, including restocking beach sand.
For more information, check out the Readers' Hurricane Charley Reports here on Theme Park Insider.