Orlando for beginners: How to survive hurricane season

Orlando for beginners: How to survive hurricane season

Hurricane season is upon us in the Sunshine State of Florida – six wonderful months of diligently watching the weather forecast to see if the tropics have started churning another big storm.

Here’s what you need to know if you are planning a trip to Orlando during hurricane season (June 1 through November 30).

 

Don’t get fooled into a false panic

Odds are in your favor: a severe storm will not hit. In over 30 years of living in Central Florida, I can count on one hand how many severe hurricanes I have been through. Generally speaking, Central Florida deals with two to three tropical storms in a season, and that’s being generous. Once every four or five years, we may deal with a hurricane.

Being in the center of the state, if a severe storm hits, the coastline gets the brunt of it. Any tropical system will become weaker the minute it hits land. So by the time it reaches Orlando, it is no longer at full strength.

 

Change is the only constant in life

Here’s how it goes down: the warm winds churning the ocean off the coast of Africa crank out a rotating storm system. If the system stays organized, it will grow to a tropical depression and, after that, possibly a tropical storm. If the conditions are right, it may become a hurricane. Here in Florida, our weather persons always give us a “heads up” right from the very beginning. However, those who have been through it before know we really only need to concern ourselves once any system gets near the Caribbean, especially Cuba.

We’ll watch the updates, and we’ll watch the projected path – and that projected path will change so many times, it’s almost comical, but that’s how nature can be. It isn’t until about four days ahead of the projected landfall date that we can really tell where the storm is going, and, even then, it can change.

Hurricane forecast.

What a hurricane looks like, via the National Weather Service.

So if you are planning your trip and the news starts to talk about a potential tropical storm or hurricane, don’t start panicking – chances are the projected path will change five or ten times before you even leave for your trip.

 

What’s your policy?

So let’s say the weather forecasts look grim and you decide to cancel your trip. Make sure you understand the cancellation policies of your airlines and hotels. In fact, you really should read these policies over before you actually book your trip.

If you are traveling during hurricane season, then you may want to consider a travel insurance purchase, so long as it covers weather-related cancellations. Many hotel chains will lift their normal cancellation policy due to extreme weather, but not every hotel does this – and airlines are a lot less flexible than hotels.

 

Push the outer limits

Okay – you’ve decided to move forward with your Orlando vacation. You should keep in mind that even if a tropical storm or hurricane does not actually make landfall and touch Central Florida, the weather can still be impacted. This is mostly due to the outer bands of a tropical system, which can sometimes bring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. And it can get really windy.

So keep an eye on the forecast and plan your days accordingly. For example, if it looks like those severe storms may come on a certain day, then plan to stay near the hotel that day rather than visiting an attraction that would require a fair amount of travel.

 

You’re safe at home base

Let’s say it looks like your trip might be impacted by severe weather. You can call your hotel and touch base with them on their plan to react to the weather. Not all front-line staff members will know all the ins and outs, so if you have specific concerns and need specific information, it doesn’t hurt to ask to speak to a member of management.

Most hotels have a phased plan, where the procedures change based on the severity of the storm. Also, most hotels have what’s called a ride-out crew, which is made up of staff members who voluntarily sign up and agree to stay at the hotel and be on-site to assist while the storm is hitting. It bears mentioning that all commercial buildings must adhere to very strict building safety codes, and Florida has its own set of safety codes pertaining to strong, high-speed winds.

Additionally, if the power goes out, it won’t be out for long – usually. This is especially true if you are at a Walt Disney World-area or a Universal Orlando hotel. Both destinations are practically on their own power grid and usually get priority when it comes to emergency needs. Few places are safer to be in than an Orlando-area resort.

 

Safety first

All hospitality establishments aim to make their guests happy. However, safety is number one and comes before courtesy. Please keep this in mind if your hotel or theme park has to make a change to their normal operation in order to keep their guests safe. For example, the weather can impact staff members having the ability to safely get to work. Therefore, a hotel may be running on limited staff members; some services may take longer or may have to be cancelled altogether.

If a very strong hurricane – let’s say a category four or five (the two highest categories) – is going to hit, then most hotels will insist that you stay in your room and will not allow you to be outdoors. If a tornado is spotted near the hotel, they will most like make an announcement that all guests need to head into the interior hallways. I know it won’t be comfortable in such situations, but safety is what matters most.

Most importantly, please always follow the instructions of the staff members.

 

Don’t get cabin fever

If the weather does get bad enough, you will spend a lot of time in your hotel room. In fact, if local authorities determine the weather to be bad enough, they may implement a curfew (in rare cases). There can also be road damage during and after a storm, too.

Find out if your hotel has board games that can be rented. If not, consider packing a travel-sized board game and deck of cards, just in case you have to stay in the room. Find out if there is a small food market on the premises and make sure to grab a few non-perishable snacks to have in your room in case you have to chill there for a while.

If you require some libations during your getaway, please know that local authorities can ban the sell of alcohol if the weather is bad enough. This is to ensure citizens and visitors are alert and able to respond to a situation in a safe manner. I say this because I have encountered a handful of very upset, not-so-understanding visitors regarding this particular situation.

 

Every storm runs out of rain

So you made it through the severe weather. Get ready for gorgeous blue skies. One of the only benefits of a tropical storm or hurricane is that it gathers up all other neighboring minor storms and also sucks up the humidity. After it passes, the weather is lovely for a few days.

Blue skies in Islands of Adventure.

Blue skies in Islands of Adventure.

However, there may be damage, so some attractions may not reopen right away. Again, safety is the top priority.

 

In summary

This information is not meant to worry you. In fact, it is my hope that this information has helped to calm your fears and paint a realistic picture of what goes on. The chances of your vacation actually being impacted by a severe weather system are so small. Just keep an eye on things, plan ahead, and remember that if some nasty weather comes your way, Orlando is one of the safest places to be and is full of some of the best hospitality professionals in the world.

Plus, you’re sure to have some cool stories to tell.

 

Don’t forget to review the other Orlando for beginners blog posts on this site, and if you have any questions, help is waiting in the OI Forums. We also have a page in the OI Universal Center with monthly temperature averages, tips for packing, and more.

 

About the author

Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani has always had a passion for tourism and hospitality. With work experience in five of Orlando's theme parks, she is an uber-fan who loves sharing her hometown with others.
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36 comments
Melissa McLaughlin
Melissa McLaughlin

Yeah Orlando very rarely gets directly in a hurricanes path. We just get the bed weather when one comes anywhere near Florida lol

Melissa McLaughlin
Melissa McLaughlin

The last hurricane orlando has had was in 2004, Charlie. We had bad weather in 2012 but a hurricane didn't come through Orlando that year. We just got bad weather from one hundreds of miles away.

Donna Page
Donna Page

I was recently there and the NWS sent a tornado alert on my phone while I was at the hotel. I had NO idea what to do. This is helpful!

Sandra Lajoie
Sandra Lajoie

We were there in the 2nd week October in 2012 and there was a hurricane during our stay. :/

Jamiecs21
Jamiecs21

I am flying out from the UK in 8 days and I am trying not to be concerned about this. I am going on my first holiday without my parents and I am just wondering how badly this weather could affect our trips to the parks.

Micheelle Ramo
Micheelle Ramo

Joanneth Pimentel & Mariana Godnez ! Cuidense :)

Wendy Coghlan
Wendy Coghlan

Paul Owens hope you got a PAC a mac !!! Enjoy x

Anne-marie Clark
Anne-marie Clark

Best weather is October through to December , that's what I found. August is so so hot and humid.april is nice

Kelly O Brien
Kelly O Brien

Tanks Emma would never even thought bout that

Ulrika Selander L
Ulrika Selander L

So it isnt nice weather on the summer. So best time is december to may!

Ulrika Selander L
Ulrika Selander L

So its a lot a hurricanes during summer break for those eho live there in june, july and august

Stephen Prescott
Stephen Prescott

Connor Harrison this for you cause you are always scared m8

Emma Hogan
Emma Hogan

Now Kelly what to do if there's a hurricane :D

matthewlynch91
matthewlynch91

@Jamiecs21


Hi Jamie, I would not be concerned at all, I have been from the UK to Orlando on 9 occasions,  we have never witnessed a hurricane, we have have had really bad rain on one occasion and our flight was delayed a few hours, but it was more a safety precaution. Never anything serious, you will notice in Florida it will look like heavy rain one moment and within 15 mins be beautiful sunshine. So just wait it out at Universal, go on indoor rides and in an hour maximum, it will  be back to normal. Many will leave but once it peters out, just means much shorter queues. :)


Matt

Jamiecs21
Jamiecs21

Hi Matt. I appreciate your response! I have been before, this is my 6th time, just never at this time of year. I am no thinking about the hurricaines as they are unlikely. Just worried that the rain could have an effect on the rides and most importantly how much me and my partner enjoy our trip.

Also slightly off topic, do you feel the World Cup may decrease crowds when USA play?

matthewlynch91
matthewlynch91

Hi James,

I would not worry at all tropical ish, heavy rain is the summer norm in Orlando and is often just a "flash storm". It will have an effect and close some rides, but once the storm blows over (often an hour max) the outdoor rides will reopen within minutes. Indoor rides Despicable Me, Mummy, Transformers, Forbidden Journey, Spiderman and the others do not close in heavy rain (unless it is an electrical storm, which is extremely extremely unlikely).

Good second question if i am honest, I'm not 100% but if you have not already I would recommend joining the Orlando Informer Forum - http://forums.orlandoinformer.com/ it is a hive of information and has some great members. They will be able to answer any questions you have on the parks and Florida :)

I have posted this topic for you here on the OI Forum with regards to the World Cup - http://forums.orlandoinformer.com/topic/1564-world-cup-usa-matches-and-universal-crowd/

Hopefully someone can give you some helpful tips :)

Matt

Jesskissimmee85
Jesskissimmee85

Hey Jamie I just got back from orlando today and had a two week vacation. I was the same as you, anxious about the quality of the weather and constantly checking accuweather, TV and websites trying to get some sort of consensus. As it happens apart from a couple of cloudy days the weather was beautiful, hot as heck in the hundreds most days with the odd storm or shower.

I suspect it will be the same for you, my advice is do not obsess over weather forecasts and apps. I did for the first few days and honestly it ruined my mood and even accuweather was often wrong, with forecasts for next day and next week changing ALL the time.

It will probably be random yes with spots of uncertainty, but you can end up casting an even bigger cloud over events with your mind! Have a lovely holiday away without your parents and enjoy florida!

Jesskissimmee85
Jesskissimmee85

Hey Jamie I just got back from orlando today and had a two week vacation. I was the same as you, anxious about the quality of the weather and constantly checking accuweather, TV and websites trying to get some sort of consensus. As it happens apart from a couple of cloudy days the weather was beautiful, hot as heck in the hundreds most days with the odd storm or shower.

I suspect it will be the same for you, my advice is do not obsess over weather forecasts and apps. I did for the first few days and honestly it ruined my mood and even accuweather was often wrong, with forecasts for next day and next week changing ALL the time.

It will probably be random yes with spots of uncertainty, but you can end up casting an even bigger cloud over events with your mind! Have a lovely holiday away without your parents and enjoy florida!

Jamiecs21
Jamiecs21

Hello Jess, thank you for your response too! I am abit anxious at the moment, had it booked since January and just want to relax! Your comments have helped me relax though so thank you. If it rains, it rains and we can't do anything about it. But at least there is a lot of attractions indoor for us to hide in if the rain falls!

How was the crowd at Universal by the way? Were people waiting outside Diagon Alley and subsequently leaving other attractions a bit quieter?

Jesskissimmee85
Jesskissimmee85

Hey Jamie, the newer rides were a pretty consistent posted 50 minute wait all day (transformers, despicable me, Harry potter) but I never waited longer than half an hour to board those rides despite what the times said most other rides about twenty or thirty minute waits at peak times eg Jurassic park, the hulk, the Simpsons)

Lines were very favourable, diagon alley not open yet, orlando informer expects June 19th or 20th soft openings I think so you might be in luck with that.

I just bought a one day hopper and when it rained and the rides closed ( which they did for an hour at IOA when it thundered) I just went over to uni studios and went on all the indoor rides there :)

Are you going to disney at all? Getting your fast pass selections in early is a really good idea if you are, the days I got organised and did them were much more enjoyable than the days I didn't however if you aren't going don't worry about them ! X

Jamiecs21
Jamiecs21

@Jesskissimmee85 Ahh thats not too bad with the big rides. I am familiar with the fact that the wait time stated is 9 times out of 10 longer than the actual time you end up queuing up for.


What I meant about Diagon Alley is that people were waiting outside that area despite nothing happening. So do you think this will be a trend in a bid to catch a soft opening for example or just anything related to the new area? I expect when it does open, the rest of Universal and IOA will be very quiet.


I have a 14 day ticket for both Universal parks and Disney too. I have done all my fast passes for the each park which I am glad to have sorted! Just a bit unsure as to how I go about making new Fast Pass selections throughout the day once I use the original 3 up. x

TansieMarchetta
TansieMarchetta

Oh god no one was stood outside diagonalley no, there's not that much to look at from the front. All the crazy stuff is

Inside.

Fast pass well you can use the mydisneyexperience app to make new ones but it went down pretty much every day at about four o clock so you have to use the fast pass plus kiosks dotted all around the parks. There's usually a pretty long line for those so I didn't bother :(

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