Tropical Storm Idalia formed Sunday morning and its path shifted with Central Florida in the cone of uncertainty ahead of it likely becoming a hurricane. This offers an update you on the system’s status, when it’ll likely be felt in Orlando, Walt Disney World’s policies, what to do, and more.
The key thing to know is that it’s currently business as usual at Walt Disney World. The company has not announced any closures, cancellations, or operational impacts whatsoever due to Tropical Storm 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.
With that said, Disney always monitors the weather and will prioritize guest and Cast Member safety above all else. It’s premature for any announcements about Walt Disney World operations. We’d expect that to happen on Monday afternoon or evening, and only if it becomes clear that Tropical Storm Idalia will pose an actual threat–beyond just wet weather and wind–to Walt Disney World.
Now let’s turn to the current forecast. Tropical Depression 10 strengthened into Tropical Storm Idalia earlier today (August 27, 2023) and is currently near the Yucatan Peninsula. The system is expected to further intensify and become a hurricane in the coming days; forecasts suggest it may make landfall in Florida by mid-week.
As of the latest update from the National Hurricane Center, the system had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was moving north at 2 mph. Tropical Storm Idalia is forecast to become a hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and there is an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge, flooding from heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds along portions of the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle beginning as early as Tuesday.
Although it is too soon to specify the exact location and magnitude of these impacts, residents in these areas should monitor updates to the forecast, have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials. Storm surge and hurricane watches may be required for portions of the Gulf coast of Florida later today.
Heavy rainfall is expected and may produce areas of flash and urban flooding and landslides. Scattered flooding from heavy rainfall is likely over in portions of the southeast U.S. by mid to late week. The current forecast projects 3 to 6 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Idalia from Tuesday into Wednesday in portions of the west coast of Florida and the Panhandle. Some areas could see as many as 10 inches of rainfall.
The National Weather Service in Melbourne is forecasting that Central Florida will feel Tropical Storm Idalia’s impacts on Tuesday and into Wednesday. The system will likely make landfall on Wednesday morning on the west coast of Florida as a hurricane. For the Orlando area, that’ll likely mean heavy rain and tropical storm force wind gusts of 35 to 45 miles per hour. There’s also the possibility of tornadoes forming in Central Florida as the system moves across the state.
Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to strengthen in to a category one hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph at landfall near North Florida. There’s also a “notable risk of rapid intensification” as the storm moves through the extremely warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, the NHC warned. Rapid intensification occurs when the maximum sustained winds of a storm increase by 35 mph or more in a 24-hour period.
To that point, the National Hurricane Center stresses that there is still “significant uncertainty” with Tropical Storm Idalia. People in Florida 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, the NHC indicates that strong winds, heavy rains, and dangerous storm surges will extend well away from the center of Tropical Storm Idalia.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is scheduled to hold a press conference on Sunday afternoon from the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. Ahead of that, the governor declared a state of emergency for 33 Florida counties, noting the Gulf Coast is still recovering after being devastated by Hurricane Ian last year.
“I signed an Executive Order issuing a state of emergency out of an abundance of caution to ensure that the Florida Division of Emergency Management can begin staging resources and Floridians have plenty of time to prepare their families for a storm next week,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I encourage Floridians to have a plan in place and ensure that their hurricane supply kit is stocked.”
The executive order covers the following counties: Alachua, Bay, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla.
During his press conference, DeSantis is likely to further elaborate on actions the state is taking, such as mobilizing the National Guard. He’s also likely to reiterate the importance of being vigilant, resources for reporting scams and price gouging, and heeding the warnings of local officials, as storm tracking is always fluid.
Those are all things he mentioned during storm season briefings last year, while also urging 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.
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.
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, Tropical Storm Idalia is like those rather than Hurricane Ian, and will drift west 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 in the next couple of days, Tropical Storm Idalia will bring heavier than normal precipitation and wind to Central Florida, meaning that–at best–it’s going to an even rainier week at Walt Disney World.
You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on this system if you’re currently planning to be in the parks this coming week. At minimum, come prepared for heavy rain, as Walt Disney World is now in the heart of tropical storm season!
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, warnings, or operational updates. In a normal year, when a storm is approaching Florida, DisneyWorld.com will have a website banner that indicates how the parks & resorts will or will not be impacted, and whether the parks are operating normally or not.
Below is an example of what that looks like, from Hurricane Dorian:
Our guess/hope is that Tropical Storm Idalia won’t necessitate a closure of the Walt Disney World theme parks. It’s approaching the west coast, rather than the east coast, of Florida; although it’s intensifying, it doesn’t have the same forecast strength as other storms from the last few years.
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. (That’s usually the very first thing to happen.) But we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the extent of the Tropical Storm Idalia operational impact.
Since Walt Disney World has not yet issued any updates, its normal hurricane policy is in place. That takes effect when a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or for the guest’s place of residence within 7 days before the scheduled arrival date of the storm. Although that has not happened yet, it’s incredibly common for Walt Disney World to accommodate guests and allow cancellations or changes without penalty even in the current circumstances.
This is at the discretion of phone representative with whom you speak, and outcomes can differ given the circumstances. As always, be kind to Cast Members, booking agents, travel agents, or anyone whose assistance you need. Remember, they do not control the weather. (Which seems like a silly thing to type, but you’d be surprised how many people seem to think that.) If the concept of kindness for its own sake is too much to grasp, just remember that (selfishly!) you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
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 Tropical Storm 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 Tropical Storm 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!