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Robert Niles
Editor

Vote of the week: What do you do when severe weather strikes a theme park?

Published: April 29, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Thanks to Theme Park Insider reader Ben James for suggesting this week's vote.

Spring brings the opening of seasonal theme parks across the country, but it also delivers unpredictable weather. Most theme park veterans have waited out a thunderstorm or two. (Or more....) But what about more severe weather? Hail? A tornado warning? Hurricane-force winds?

Lightning

It's not weather, but what about an earthquake? A recent quake prompted thousands of visitors to flee Disneyland, leaving the park nearly empty later that evening for those who chose to stay.

You could run for the front gate, and try to drive to the safety of home or hotel. Or you could duck into a shop or waiting area. Or you could say 'to heck with the danger' and take advantage by trying to bag as many rides as remain open while everyone else flees.

What's your pick? What have you seen others do? Share your best "theme parks in natural disasters" story in the comments, please!

Replies (17)

Brandon Grayson

Published: April 29, 2010 at 10:24 PM

I remember one time I was at Universal Orlando and I was in the single riders line for Ripley's and there was a really bad rain and thunder storm for like 30 min. It was bad, but I got to ride it in the rain XD
77.103.152.109

Published: April 30, 2010 at 2:28 AM

We were in Orlando last May & we had torrential rain every day for 2 weeks !! We just put on our ponchos & got on with it. Some of the rides were closed but the waiting time for the other rides were definatly shorter.
Rob P

Published: April 30, 2010 at 2:41 AM

I think you would expect most of us to ignore heavy rainfall whilst at the Parks but , in my experience, even severe storms with lightning and thunder seem to bring out that "bulldog spirit" ( as we Brits call it ) in everyone.

Obviously we all believe that the Parks aren't going to remain open if there's a possibility of real danger. But the truth is that Universal and Disney, much to our disappointment, aren't actually in control of the weather. They do keep the information channels open and close selected rides but , in general, they do try to remain open and we stick with it and make the most of it all.

In fact I think that spirit of adventure in us is ignited that bit more. People tend to pull together that little bit more too. Like we're all in this together and we're going to see it through. OK. Being at, say, Islands of Adventure, during a lightning storm isn't exactly " Saving Private Ryan" but you get my drift.

Then when the storm subsides and the skies begin to clear. There's that joyous moment when we all look around at each other with some pride at our " achievement".

It doesn't get better than that.

Derek Potter

Published: April 30, 2010 at 4:47 AM

I'll usually find something to do inside the park until the bad weather subsides. Thrill parks close just about every ride while it's raining these days because most are outdoors. I find that people start heading for the exit in crowds after a half hour or so. Obviously if rain is forecast for the rest of the day, they I would leave, but I usually avoid bad weather like that because I check the forecast.

I recall a July 4th about 6-7 years back at Kings Island. It was a nice day all day, and crowds were light until about 4. Then the whole city of Cincinnati decided to come to Kings Island at about 5 and the park was packed. That evening, the weather turned on us to the point of a nasty storm that had possibilities of a tornado. Wild winds, close lightning, and torrential rain all came at once. All of this happened within about a half hour, while thousands of people were gathering on International street getting ready for the July 4 fireworks. Another factor was that most sections of the park were now closed because of the fireworks show, so all of the people were now occupying about 25-30% of the park. The conditions were right for chaos

Needless to say that once the big rain, lightning and heavy winds hit, an army of thousands stormed the exit gate, made a break for their cars, and created the biggest parking lot mess I've ever seen. This parking lot was the definition of fubar, as everyone wanted to leave right now and in a hurry, and Kings Island simply didn't have the trained manpower needed to direct traffic and deal with such a mess. Fights broke out and people were screaming and honking. It took a full 2 hours to get out of the lot, and by that time the bad weather had subsided. I remember thinking that we should have just ducked into a restaurant and had a drink or something. I would much rather be there during a tornado than my car. Lesson learned (or relearned) that day, think before you follow the crowd.

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: April 30, 2010 at 4:59 AM

I saw a tornado come out of the sky at Downtown Disney. We hid in the Rainforest Cafe. It dissapaited before it could come down.
Tim Odom

Published: April 30, 2010 at 5:50 AM

Back a couple years ago, we were in Orlando when Tropical Storm Fay hit, and that storm stayed around for a week. We did not miss a thing outside of shows that were canceled and water rides that seemed, well, unnecessary. Hell, during some of the worst downpours, we were out there in our crappy ponchos, making the best of it.

I will say, though, I will never ride ShiekRa in the rain again, that lift hill sucks when you keep getting rain drops in your eyes.

Tiffany Alfonso

Published: April 30, 2010 at 7:56 AM

I had several instances of situations like this - in BGTB, I, my cousins, and uncle have to hunker down in the queue line in Stanleyville Falls with some Argentinean youth herd. When the rain is over, we proceeded on to the flume.
109.77.120.165

Published: April 30, 2010 at 8:25 AM

We were in Orlando this January when the temperatures were just shy of freezing.

This meant that if you got to the parks early the queue times were really short, back to back rides on Montu in Busch Gardens for 30mins and of course no queue times for Atlantis in SeaWorld, no one is keen on getting wet when it's that cold :-)

On the downside there were some rides that were closed "until the track warmed up". In particular Manta at SeaWorld.

Is there some science to this or were they just waiting for the number of people in parks to increase before starting the rides?

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 30, 2010 at 11:45 AM

My advice?

Tornado: Go for the first strong shelter you can find. Preferably downhill from where you stand, if you have a choice.

Lightning: Head toward the nearest popular ride that's likely to remain open in a thunderstorm. If lightning strikes in your section of the park, just get on the ground, then scoot into the nearest permanent shelter. Avoid umbrellas, lampposts and metal strollers. And take the Bluetooth out of your ear, for Heaven's sake. (Actually, you should do that even if the weather's warm and sunny. Those things just look silly.)

Earthquake: If outside, move toward an open area, where stuff won't fall on you. If inside, move toward a doorway, or away from shelves, displays and hanging objects - again, where stuff won't fall on you. If that's not an option, get under the most sturdy table you can find and cover your head. After the shaking stops, move toward the most popular open ride in the vicinity. If everything's down while the park makes it checks, move toward the back of the park, and chat up employees to find which rides typically complete their checks the quickest. Then go there. Even if it's a catastrophic quake, I'd rather be inside a theme park, with food, generators and personnel trained in emergency response, than outside the park where chaos will prevail.

Hurricane: Go back in time two days when you should have heard the warning, then get your tush out of town, like you were supposed to. Sheesh.

Heavy rain: Read this. Then bring a raincoat and enjoy the small crowd.

Cold: Wear a hat and warm gloves with your coat. Do the outdoor rides until everyone else gives up and leaves. Then hit the indoor stuff as others abandon the park. Save the water rides for last. Splurge and spend the five bucks on the family dryer. Even if you don't ride a water ride. ;-)

24.170.142.253

Published: April 30, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Riding Hulk when it was raining= a bit painful, but epically awesome
Pyra Dong

Published: April 30, 2010 at 9:35 PM

Rain is probably the most common weather downer.

My rule? If I have a theme park pass where I can go back the next day... then after 1 hour of peeing clouds... I'm OUTTA THERE to sightsee the indoor attractions of nearby places (aka the mall). Meanwhile, that 1 hour is spent browsing the theme park's indoor awesomeness... like taking pictures of myself with the cool gift shops.

If there is no pass (and the rain has hopes of clearing up in 1.5 hours) STAY IN THE PARK AND DON'T BE A WUSS. There's more to theme parks than just outdoor rides. It's a "themed" park!!!!! Discover them.

If there's no pass and rain will destroy everything for 75% of the day-- wtf are you doing in a theme park to begin with? Doesn't ANYONE check the weather before deciding to spend hundreds of dollars on a single day? If it says 60% or more of rain, then you better have Plans A-G handy.

Pyra... out

Tim W
Writer

Published: May 1, 2010 at 5:45 AM

I can handle rain in WDW. You get soaked, so wat. However, when Huricane Charlie Hit, the parks were closed. There was no way I was even going outside. The worst part about it was that it was the first day i came into florida, and i was stuck in a hotel room instead. Thankfully we brought snacks that were consumed as our dinner. Ha and cold, don't even get me started. When we went in february, we found alot of people leaving the parks early or wearing parkas...in like 50 degree weather. Sorry to be so critical, but its hard not to be when I went down to florida from 10 degree weather. That trip found minimal waits, which was excellant!
Amanda Jenkins
Writer

Published: May 1, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Rain...You keep going. Rain with thunder and hurricanes and such...you might return to shelter. Right now, I am living in the area that is under the huge Tornado,straight line winds, and seven to ten inches of rain warnings, watches, and such. I need a boat just to get across the driveway. Luckily, Memphis doesn't have anything fun enough to work our way through bad weather. I've been to Disney World during hurricane season. Rain isn't so bad, the high winds, a little much.
98.169.4.136

Published: May 1, 2010 at 2:32 PM

We were also at WDW during Tropical Storm Fay a couple of years ago. Rode Test Track in the pouring down rain...hitting the outside portion in that was an invigorating experience.

Then, as it was the last day of our six-day stay, it was the perfect day to take our daughters on the "world tour." We stopped at each country in Epcot, and they were able to take their time in making their special craft from each country. They even had Mary Poppins all to themselves for about 30 minutes at the U.K. pavilion. Priceless!!

Anyway, when people asked us what we did that summer, we said, "We went around the world in a tropical storm!" - W.P.

Joe Brown

Published: May 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM

I think it was back in 05 for our first Disney trip. There was a hurricane set to hit florida and travel through Orlando. We called and set our visist back a day. We left Indiana and drove way out of our way to avoid the forecasted path. We ran into it near Jacksonville and found one of the last rooms there. We finnaly got to Disney and the park was nearly empty all week as there was another hurricane forecast on a similar path at the end of the week. We never used fast pass the whole week and spent a lot of qulaity time with the characters.
24.90.249.214

Published: May 2, 2010 at 6:48 PM

Hearshy I was last eyar when it got extemely intense! The first night we get into the park for the preview and it was great! second day on the comforatable side in the morning but extremely hot in the afternoon whcih was the recipe for thunder and lightining. Around 12-1 pm I notice it is getting seriously dark over the perimeter of the park and traveling in over the wildcat. Now it is like night time the lights are coming on on all rides and path ways and winds are gusting probably 45-50 m.p.h. Now after this alarms galore sound and the recording comes on and says because of inclimate wather hersheypark will be closed until the storm pases. Now it starts raining and we hide out in the lightining racer gift shop. It then starts flooding the park and park. Now it gets better and more exciting now we have park employees going around pushing the crowed to the nearest evacuation shelter/ caterd outing pavilion. we said we do not want to go so they said fine. After about 1 hour the rain let up and their was a tornado sighting a few miles away. After that it was great the croweds evend out and the lines were so short until about 5pm then.
The third night we are in hershey the same thing happend and we were in chocolate world USA and the sky just opend up. this time the damage was done the park shut early for taht evening and wveryone crammed onto the bus back to camp or whatever prmisese they were at. after that no one would let us back into are camp site and we spend 2 hours in the camp office and store. When it was all said and done with power was failed to the camp and There had been reports of a tornado or some twisted activity that hit the camp. On the way back it was scary as some tents were overturned but for me Luckly ours were just flooded.
Will Chilcote

Published: May 4, 2010 at 12:16 AM

I visited Disneyland the day after an earthquake (4.8). Other than a few short term ride closures (after shocks) there was no difference than every other visit. Disney never even said why the rides were closed.

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