Tornadoes at Disney World: Do the Parks and Resorts Close?

by | Jan 8, 2024 | Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, Disney's Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resorts, WDW Blog

If you’re wondering how tornadoes at Walt Disney World Resort are handled, we’ve got your guide on what to expect when the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Inclement weather isn’t any Disney guest’s favorite way to experience the theme parks, resorts, or Disney Springs –– but it happens! From downpours of rain and thunderstorms to exceptionally cold and windy days, Florida’s famed sunny days can give way to worse weather. And at times, that includes tornadoes.

Yep, that’s right: Tornadoes do happen at Disney World! So, what can you expect if the theme parks and Orlando at large are under a tornado warning or tornado watch? Here’s what you need to know about tornadoes at Disney World.

Disney World Theme Parks Go on Alert at the First Signs of Severe Weather

It takes awfully severe weather for a Disney park to close, and this has only happened a few times throughout Disney World’s history (and it’s most commonly the result of strong hurricanes). The theme parks, attractions, and even park icons are all built to withstand serious weather, from Florida’s notorious thunderstorms to strong gale-force winds. 

And, as you’d expect, Disney World has set policies in place to handle various types of inclement weather. While on your average rainy day a few attractions might close, in general the parks continue to operate normally. 

First and foremost, when inclement weather is expected –– or even spotted, as Disney does monitor changing weather patterns and conditions –– Cast Members are put on alert. If the weather worsens, generating concerns like lightning strikes, they will enact safety and security measures to shut down or clear out attractions and areas of the parks and resorts. For example, outdoor rides and entertainment will stop if lightning strikes are getting too close; ferryboat service will also pause.

But, in general, Cast Members will simply monitor the situation and stay on alert until the weather either clears or is upgraded to a more serious and imminent threat.

Tornado Watches and Tornado Warnings Do Differ

When it comes to tornadoes at Disney World, it’s important to note that tornado watches and tornado warnings are quite different. Neither one means a tornado is imminent! However, you’ll want to know the difference if severe storms are in your weather forecast while you’re visiting the theme parks and resorts.

A tornado watch is just a heads up that a tornado might happen. Tornado watches are issued when weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes, such as when there’s a severe thunderstorm or tornadoes in other areas. It doesn’t mean a tornado is necessarily going to occur, but that as the weather develops, there is a chance one could.

A tornado warning, on the other hand, is more serious. Tornado warnings are issued when a tornado has been spotted, or one has been picked up on radar. So, when you hear there’s an active tornado warning, it’s time to take action and shelter somewhere safe.

Tornado watches are often issued for broad areas and regions, while tornado warnings are more specific and limited to areas in which a tornado is highly likely to appear. 

What Happens When There’s a Tornado Warning at Disney World?

When tornado watches are issued, Cast Members will continue monitoring the local weather before taking direct action. If a tornado warning is issued for the area, Cast Members will then act to help guests shelter in place at theme parks, resorts, and Disney Springs.

Typically, for a tornado warning or even a tornado spotting, guests will be directed to indoor locations, such as interior ride queues or nearby stores. Because Florida is used to high winds from hurricanes and thunderstorms, many structures are already well-equipped to handle high-speed winds. Guests will then shelter in place until an all-clear is given and the threat has passed. 

Happen to be at one of Disney World’s hotels? When tornado warnings happen near the resorts, alarms will typically sound and guests will be asked to head to the ground floor (or lowest-level floor) of their hotel to shelter in a secure, interior room away from windows. Similarly, once the threat has cleared and the tornado warning ends, you’ll be free to head back to your room.

If Tornadoes Are Possible, Check the Walt Disney World Website for Updates

Worried about tornado warnings, tornado watches, or other inclement weather for your upcoming trip? Don’t be –– Disney World has it covered! But if you’re uncertain about what might happen, or what you might need to plan for, you can visit Disney’s Weather Updates & Information page online. It’s where you’ll find all of the critical weather updates and information you might need if severe weather is on its way.

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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