For the first time in the history of Disney World, all four theme parks closed for two consecutive days as Hurricane Irma barreled through Florida. The once very strong category 5 storm was lowered to a category 2. Millions of people in Florida and beyond have suffered catastrophic damage and could be without power and water for weeks or longer while crews rebuild the infrastructure.
But thanks to some planning, Disney World is well positioned to withstand even strong storms. It’s about 40 miles inland and about 125 feet above sea level meaning the land can break the winds and storm surges can’t really get that high or that far.
Nonetheless, Disney World experienced winds up to 79 miles per hour between 1 and 3am on Monday, September 11, 2017 and did sustain some damage because of it.
Disney Resort Hotels
For the most part, the Disney resort hotels remained open during Hurricane Irma, and there were many guests who rode out the storm in their rooms. The exceptions were Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Campgrounds and The Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, which closed due to their exposure to the elements.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort all experienced uprooted trees. One of the buildings in Animal Kingdom Lodge was a victim of the fallen tree, but no serious damage was reported there. A tree at the Poly dropped near the East Pool and may have done some damage to the surrounding fencing. Again, the damage is not serious, and it will be repaired quickly.
A palm tree broke in half and landed on some metal fencing at the Caribbean Beach Resort, but it has been cleaned up and the walking path is now open. Another tree down at the resort fell over a walking path outside of one of the guest buildings. It’s also been cleaned up and the path is open.
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort experienced some flooding and downed branches, but no major damage.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa also had some flooding which has now receded.
The Theme Parks
Magic Kingdom‘s Jungle Cruise remains closed and will be closed “for at least a week.” It seems that trees have blocked the boat path pretty significantly. There was also tree damage at The Skipper Canteen. The Pet Cemetary at Haunted Mansion had some fallen debris, but it has been removed. There was also some debris on the Walt Disney World Railroad train tracks, which has been cleared and is now operating.
Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was closed briefly, but it is now reopen. Kali River Rapids also sustained some damage but is now open as well. Rafiki’s Planet Watch was inaccessible due to debris on the railroad tracks, but Cast Members cleared the debris and the attraction is open. The Gorilla Falls Trail was also closed briefly, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek walking path has been modified due to unstable trees near Flights of Wonder. Several trees were down in the area. Some plants in Pandora – The World of Avatar were damaged; there’s no word on how long it will take to fix these man-made structures.
In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a large tree fell at the entrance. Fortunately, the tall palms on Hollywood Blvd survived Irma’s winds!
The parks reopened as planned on September 12th with some extra magic hours in the morning at Magic Kingdom and in the evening at Epcot. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party went on as planned on Tuesday night, and most everything is back to normal operation.
The Water Parks
The water parks seem to have taken the hardest hit with branches and trees down all over. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon looks even more like a shipwreck right now, but both parks are expected to open later this week.
Long Term Effects
If you plan to head to Disney World soon, you might see some remnants of damage like missing trees, less foliage, and still some closed attractions, but it seems that Disney World won’t have any long-term effects.
The state of Florida, though, is still experiencing the aftermath outside of Disney World.
The Orlando International Airport has reopened but is not operating at full capacity. Expect delays especially if you’re traveling soon. If you’re driving, know that some gas stations sustained serious damage. They may be closed completely. Gas supplies have been tight, with many stations running out. Officials have recommended using the Gas Buddy app to check the most up-to-date information on local gas stations.
Be mindful that the whole state just endured a major hurricane, the largest and longest in recorded history, and give officials the benefit of the doubt. Take your time and travel safely.
Did Disney do a good job recovering from Hurricane Irma?