You probably have heard about the wildfire that is burning through Southern California right now. The fire is nowhere near any of the region's major theme parks, but it is making the air nasty and disrupting travel throughout the region. So let's take this as an excuse to talk about what visitors should do when extreme weather and natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes threaten you in an unfamiliar place, such as a vacation destination.
For the current Woolsey Fire, Disneyland visitors don't need to worry about the flames, but they might be affected by dry air, high winds, and smoky air. The risk is even greater for people visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, which is located less than 20 miles from the evacuation zone on the other side of the San Fernando Valley.
Drink more water than you would normally to protect against the effects of the extremely dry conditions. If you see the haze of smoke in the sky, or smell it, plan to stay indoors as much as you can and limit your activity outdoors. In getting to and from the parks, use your favorite road map application to check for road closures and traffic when driving around the area. There's no reason to add to a traffic jam, especially when people are trying to escape affected areas.
Don't assume that the parks will be empty with tourists staying away this weekend because of the fire. Some of the people on the west side of Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County affected by the fire will end up using the mandatory or suggested evacuation as an excuse to head down to Orange County and spend a couple of days at Disneyland, much like people living on the Florida coast evacuated due to hurricanes end up in Orlando and at Walt Disney World.
We've talked before about what happens to your vacation if a hurricane hits. Wildfires flare up with much less notice than hurricanes, but they can affect a community for much longer. "Red flag" fire-friendly conditions are expected to persist in the area through Tuesday, meaning we could be looking at up to five days of flames here. And there's no "riding out" a fire like a hurricane. Every wildfire kills like a Category 5 storm if it hits you, so if is coming, you'd better get out. Fortunately, getting away from the path of a fire is a lot easier than getting out of the much wider paths of faster moving hurricanes, if you have enough notice and the means to go.
Tornado warnings will be familiar to anyone who's lived in the Midwest and Southeast. If one is called when you are visiting a park, follow park employees' instructions to evacuate to a safe area then stay there until you hear an "all clear." Earthquakes, unfortunately, provide no notice, so if you get caught by one when visiting a park, you'll need to know what to do in advance.
Many rides, especially in California and Japan, are designed to shut down in an earthquake. Power might fail, as well. Your immediate danger is falling debris, so protect yourself as best you can. Drop, cover, and hold on. If you are on a ride, stay in your seat. Don't run if an earthquake hits, because a stampede is just another risk for everyone in the area. Don't get in a doorway and don't run outside. If you are outdoors, stay there. After the shaking stops, follow park employees' instructions.
Theme park employees are trained to respond to risks such as fires, storms, and earthquakes. So the best thing that you can do, as a visitor, is to listen and respond to those employees. If you are in Southern California to visit the parks this week, enjoy your stay as best you can, drink a lot of water, take it easy outside... and be as nice as you can to your fellow park guests. They might be escaping sometime truly horrific back home.Tweet
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