Hurricane Idalia formed this morning and continues to strengthen, forecast to become a major Category 3 or 4 hurricane before making landfall in Florida. This offers an update you on the system’s status, its cone of uncertainty, when it’ll likely be felt in Central Florida, Walt Disney World’s policies and more.
As before, it’s currently business as usual at Walt Disney World. The company has not announced any closures, cancellations, or significant operational impacts due to Hurricane Idalia. If you’re simply worried about what could be closing or changing at the resorts, water parks, restaurants, etc., the answer is nothing. So far, and for the most part.
With that said, Disney always monitors the weather and will prioritize guest and Cast Member safety above all else. The current tracking places the worst of Idalia pretty far from Walt Disney World, but it could still ‘wobble’ to the east. If that happens, and it becomes possible that Hurricane Idalia will pose an actual threat to the parks and resorts–beyond just wet weather and wind–closures and cancellations could be announced this afternoon.
Thus far, Walt Disney World has officially enacted its more lenient hurricane cancellation and modification policy. This had been informally instituted over the weekend on a case-by-case basis, but now it’s available to all guests wanting to cancel their vacations through September 4, 2023.
Additionally, Walt Disney World has offered an update to guests staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground: “As we continue to monitor the weather, we are asking that all Fort Wilderness Guests remove and stow all outside items, including tents and décor, and take in camper awnings by 6 PM on Tuesday, August 29. If you’d like to depart early or discuss alternate options for your vacation, please contact us at (407) 939-2744.”
As of the latest update on August 29, 2023 from the National Hurricane Center, the center of Hurricane Idalia has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and higher gusts, and the system is approximately 320 miles south-southwest of Tampa moving north at 14 mph. Its hurricane-force winds extend out 15 miles and tropical-storm-force winds extend out 160 miles.
Hurricane Idalia’s projected path has the center making landfall in Florida’s Big Bend part of the Gulf Coast, before heading inland between Gainesville and Tallahassee. National Hurricane Center forecasters predict that the system will reach peak sustained winds of 120 mph with gusts up to 150 mph and storm surge that could top 12 feet.
The National Hurricane Center indicates that there is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect, including Tampa Bay and the Big Bend region of Florida. Inundation of 8 to 12 feet above ground level is expected somewhere between Chassahowitzka and Aucilla River. Residents in these areas should follow any advice given by local officials.
A Hurricane Warning has been issued for areas along the Florida Gulf Coast, with the potential for destructive winds where the core of Idalia moves onshore. Strong winds will also spread inland across portions of northern Florida near the track of the center of Idalia.
Areas of flash and urban flooding, some of which may be locally significant, are expected across portions of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle, and southern Georgia Tuesday into Wednesday, spreading into portions of the eastern Carolinas Wednesday into Thursday.
Unlike Hurricane Ian, this storm is expected to move quickly over Florida. Rainfall totals are still expected to be high, with 4-8 inches across much of the system’s path, and some areas with as much as 12 inches across ports of Florida’s West Coast and Panhandle. However, the Orlando area is not expected to see these levels of rainfall.
The National Weather Service in Melbourne said parts of east Central Florida will see 2-3 inches of rain with some pockets hitting 4-5 inches. Walt Disney World can also expect tropical storm force wind gusts of 35 to 45 miles per hour, and the possibility of tornadoes forming in Central Florida as the system moves across the state.
Hurricane Idalia is expected to strengthen into at least a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall in Florida. With an inner core now present, the stage is set for Idalia to rapidly intensify before landfall. The National Hurricane Center indicates that confidence is increasing in its forecast of an extremely dangerous major hurricane making landfall Wednesday along the west coast or Big Bend region of Florida.
Nevertheless, the NHC reiterates that Floridians should not focus on the details of the track, as small deviations could dramatically change the scope and scale of the storm’s impact in Central Florida. Moreover, strong winds, heavy rains, and dangerous storm surges will extend well away from the center of Hurricane Idalia.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference from the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee yesterday. The intensifying of Idalia resulted in the governor expanding his earlier state of emergency declaration to 46 counties, up from 33. In Central Florida, the state of emergency now includes Seminole, Lake and Volusia counties.
Florida counties under the state of emergency order include: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Nassau, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, and Wakulla counties.
While some counties in Central Florida are under hurricane warnings, that is not the case Osceola or Orange Counties, which Walt Disney World calls home. Instead, Osceola and Orange Counties have tropical storm warnings.
At a briefing in Tallahassee, DeSantis urged all Floridians to prepare for Idalia to be dangerous. “We’ve got to stop focusing on the cone of uncertainty and look at all the areas that could be affected,” DeSantis said. The governor further explained how all it would take is “one wobble one way or another” and the major impacts of the storm could change between Tallahassee and Tampa, drawing a comparison to how forecasts for Hurricane Ian shifted southward shortly before the storm made landfall last year, devastating the Gulf Coast. “You still have time today…so do what you’ve gotta do to prepare.”
“This is going to be a major hurricane. This is going to be a powerful hurricane…so buckle up for this one,” DeSantis warned. The governor also submitted a request for aid to the White House. This was approved by President Biden, who granted an emergency declaration and ordered federal assistance in responding to the storm.
During the briefing DeSantis also elaborated on actions the state is taking, such as mobilizing the National Guard. He reiterated the importance of being vigilant, shared resources for reporting scams and price gouging, and implored Floridians to heed the warnings of local officials, as storm tracking is always fluid.
DeSantis also urged Floridians to have seven days worth of supplies and to stay tuned to local media for the latest forecast updates, but not “panic buy.” He also warned of power losses, but said there tens of thousands of worker standing by at the major utility companies, preparing to restore power in the days after the storms pass.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie expects Idalia to strengthen beyond the current NHC forecast. “I’m anticipating it is going to be a Category 4 Hurricane and we are preparing as such,” Guthrie said. He urged Floridians to prepare for the impacts of a major hurricane, and not to take the threat lightly.
“People need to expect, even though they are well off outside of the cone, that we are going to have power outages, we are going to have trees down on power lines,” Guthrie said. “You need to be prepared for that.” Guthrie added that his biggest concern is procrastination, and Floridians not preparing until Idalia officially reaches major hurricane status or failing to heed evacuation orders.
As always, we’re not attempting to be alarmists. Anyone who has experienced storm season in Florida knows these forecasts can–and usually do–change. In the past few years, hurricanes originally forecast to miss Florida entirely have swerved towards the state and others with a high probability of wreaking havoc have weakened at the last minute. This one appears pretty consistent, but it could always change last minute.
We have witnessed this ourselves with Hurricanes Irma, Dorian, and Isaias. We can now say the same about our firsthand experience with Hurricane Hilary in California. (Oddly enough, that necessitated way more storm prep for us than we ever did while living in Florida!) Hopefully, Idalia is like those rather than Hurricane Ian, and will continue its current tracking and have minimal impact on Central Florida as a result.
Nevertheless, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and be prepared rather than not taking a major storm system seriously. Regardless of how models change, Hurricane Idalia will bring heavier than normal precipitation and wind to Central Florida, meaning that–at best–it’s going to an even rainier few days at Walt Disney World.
Aside from the aforementioned wet and windy weather, the operational impact on Walt Disney World is still unknown. Again, Walt Disney World has not issued any closures or warnings.
DisneyWorld.com has added the below banner to the top of the website. This will be updated throughout the next couple of days with info about how the parks & resorts will or will not be impacted, and whether the parks are operating normally or not.
Our guess/hope is that Hurricane Idalia won’t cause a closure of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Perhaps evening entertainment will be cancelled, or maybe minor operational updates will be made at the last minute…but that’s probably about it. Hurricane Idalia is approaching the west coast, rather than the east coast, of Florida. Although it’s intensifying, it doesn’t have the same strength as other storms from the last few years, and Idalia’s current path has the worst impacts missing Orlando.
That probably means it’ll be mostly a matter of heavy rain and wind at Walt Disney World. But, and this probably goes without saying, you should get severe weather preparedness advice from sources other than a fan blog about Disney. As it concerns our actual area of expertise, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a relocation of guests from Fort Wilderness. But even that hasn’t happened as of Tuesday morning, so it seems unlikely barring a last-minute forecast change. We wouldn’t be surprised if the latest update is the extent of the official Hurricane Idalia operational impact.
We’ll keep you posted with updates from the National Hurricane Center and operational updates from Walt Disney World whenever one is released. If you’re planning a visit, you can also consult our Tips for Hurricane & Storm Season at Walt Disney World for generalized advice on packing, avoiding the worst of the wet weather, and even riding out a hurricane. We hope and doubt it’ll come to that with Hurricane Idalia!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Are you concerned that Hurricane Idalia will impact Walt Disney World? Are you currently in Central Florida? Have you visited during past tropical storms or hurricanes? Any additional info, thoughts, or first-hand experiences to share about riding out a hurricane at Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!