Disney World Under Hurricane Watch as Ian Intensifies & Storm Shifts
Hurricane Ian has intensified into a Category 3 system, with its path continuing to target Florida’s Gulf Coast including a threat to Central Florida. Walt Disney World is now under a hurricane watch, as warnings were issued along the coast including the potential for 10-foot storm surge in Tampa Bay. In this, we’ll update you on the storm’s status, when it’ll likely be felt in Orlando, Walt Disney World’s policies, what to do, and more.
Note that Walt Disney World Has Announced Closures, Cancellations & Operational Impacts Due to Hurricane Ian. That post covers what’s closing and changing at the resorts, water parks, restaurants, and beyond. Thus far, the 4 theme parks are operating normally, but Disney has advised that it’s monitoring the weather and will prioritize guest and Cast Member safety above all else.
The National Hurricane Center updates its Hurricane Ian Advisory every few hours, at which point it shifts the ‘cone of uncertainty’ representing the range of possibilities for the storm’s center that extends up to five days into the future. The cone of uncertainty predicts the hurricane’s path, but even outside of the cone, ferocious winds, storm surge, heavy rains, and other intense weather can be felt. Let’s start with the latest of these, as of 11 am on September 27, 2022…
In its 11 am EST update, the National Hurricane Center puts the center of Ian in the Gulf of Mexico about 305 miles south-southwest of Sarasota. The well-defined eye of Ian emerged off the coast of western Cuba about an hour ago. Hurricane-force winds extend out 35 miles with tropical-force-storm winds out 140 miles.
Earlier reports from the NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Ian strengthened up through landfall. While Hurricane Ian has filled somewhat due to the passage over Cuba, Air Force Reserve and NOAA Hurricane Hunter data show that it has grown in size.
There has been a notable trend toward Hurricane Ian remaining more intact up through landfall, meaning Ian is likely to turn to the northeast and not move as slowly as previously anticipated. However, it should be emphasized that this track remains “very uncertain,” according to the NHC due to the oblique angle of approach to Florida.
The National Hurricane Center’s forecast at 11 am on September 27 is shifted to the southeast, showing landfall 6-12 hours faster than before; NHC is monitoring the southern trend continues in the afternoon guidance. The rest of the forecast after landfall has been adjusted to the northeast as well, though it is still slower than the consensus guidance at longer range.
Hurricane Ian is likely to encounter an environment that’s favorable for restrengthening over the next day or so while it moves over the warm waters of the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Model guidance is in fairly good agreement on this scenario, and the NHC intensity forecast continues to call for an “extremely dangerous hurricane landfall for southwestern Florida.”
The new 11 am September 27, 2022 forecast necessitates a Hurricane Watch for portions of extreme southwestern Florida, and a Tropical Storm Watch for the rest of southeastern Florida that wasn’t previously under a watch. Significant wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards will extend far from the center of the system reaching throughout Florida.
According to the National Hurricane Center, here are the Key Messages for Florida:
Life-threatening storm surge looks increasingly likely along much of the Florida west coast where a storm surge warning is in effect,
with the highest risk from Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay region. Residents in these areas should listen to advice given by local officials and follow evacuation orders if made for your area.
Hurricane-force winds are expected in the hurricane warning area in southwest and west-central Florida beginning Wednesday morning with tropical storm conditions expected by this evening. Residents should rush all preparations to completion today.
Heavy rainfall will increase across the Florida Keys and south Florida today, spreading into central and northern Florida tonight and Wednesday, into the Southeast U.S. by Thursday and Friday, likely causing flash, urban, and small stream flooding. Considerable
flooding is expected across central Florida into southern Georgia and coastal South Carolina, with widespread, prolonged moderate to
major river flooding expected across central Florida.
The National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Watch for Orange and Osceola, among other counties in Central Florida that Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and other tourist attractions call home. A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane-force winds are possible in the next 48 hours.
This is an elevation above the Tropical Storm Warning (still in place for many other Florida counties along the east coast) that was previously issued by the Melbourne NWS on Monday night.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a Tuesday morning press conference from the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee (see full video here via the Florida Channel) during which he addressed the shift in forecasts for Hurricane Ian. “We were here 48 hours ago and most of the solutions had it going up the west coast of Florida,” DeSantis said. “Now most of them have it ramming into the state of Florida and cutting across. Be prepared for that and understand that that’s something that could happen.”
DeSantis also warned that catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge would be seen in areas of Florida as Hurricane Ian hits the state’s west coast tomorrow. “Impacts will be far, far broader than where of the eye makes landfall,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis urged Floridians to heed evacuation orders, which identify people living in areas that are vulnerable to major storm surge. “Mother nature is a very fierce adversary,” DeSantis said. People evacuating don’t need to go to another state or travel hundreds of miles, DeSantis noted, instead indicating that shelters are open throughout inland parts of Florida and in higher, dryer ground.
The governor said that 2.5 million people are now under evacuation orders, mostly in coastal counties of Florida.
During his Tuesday press conference, DeSantis also addressed comparisons between Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Charley. “Most of the damage from Charley was from wind and wind destruction,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also drew contrasts between Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Charley, noting their respective sizes. (As you can see in the graphic above, via WESH 2 Weather, Ian is much larger.) “What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential,” DeSantis said. “The storm surges you’re going to see generated from this is going to far eclipse what we saw there.”
DeSantis also announced that Expedia has set up a special page for inexpensive lodging options at expedia.com/florida.
He said that “tens of thousands” of people are on standby to ensure power is restored as promptly as possible and that all of the state’s long-term care facilities in the state have an active generator on site with the threat of major power outages this week.
For his part, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency, and urged all residents to prepare emergency kits and review disaster plans. ”Make sure you have your supplies, all your medicine and your food and water,” Dyer said. “Today is your last day to get prepared, if you haven’t already done so, do what you need to do, have a family plan in the next few days.”
The City of Orlando continues to monitor the trajectory and potential impact of Ian. Details of sandbags operations, solid waste operations and additional resources for citizens are available in the city’s website.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has indicated that he’s working with state and local governments to tweak emergency plans, including distribution of water. “There’s a whole team of people who are committed to working across jurisdictions…to make certain that we have a plan to accommodate the needs not just of the metro Orlando area but the entire state of Florida because of how potential evacuations will occur from coastal counties that will impact us and our ability here to house those persons,” Demings said.
“We’re seeing impacts in our grocery stores…in our warehouses, we keep a supply of water available for unplanned types of emergencies. That’s part of the conversation that we will have about how we will deploy the water and various other things.”
Central Florida counties, including Orange and Osceola–which are where Walt Disney World is located–are now under a tropical storm warning. Tropical-storm conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours.
The impact for the region from Ian is expected to be rain, flooding, severe storms and high wind gusts, with the worst weather expected on Wednesday and Thursday. The NHC said central west Florida could see between 12 and 16 inches of rain with some maximum totals up to 24 inches.
Walt Disney World has not yet announced the closure of its theme parks on Wednesday or Thursday, but other Central Florida theme parks have. Our expectation is that Disney will follow suit, with at least a partial closure on Wednesday and full-day closure on Thursday. (Full day closures on September 28-29, 2022 is the most likely scenario, in our view.)
As for Hurricane Ian, we’ll keep you posted with updates from the National Hurricane Center and operational updates from Walt Disney World whenever they are released. Stay tuned, and stay safe!
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!
Thoughts on the latest National Hurricane Center forecast for Hurricane Ian or the spaghetti model consensus showing the system moving directly through Walt Disney World? Are you currently in Central Florida? Have you visited during past 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!
You’ve become my source for all things hurricane Ian this past week. Excellent reporting! As a side note, all the Disney photos you have included are spectacular!
Stay Safe.. This too will pass!
Stay safe Tom and Sarah! Thanks for keeping everyone updated, and for your super thorough and CALM coverage.
We are in lake county, one county north of Orange County. We played golf this am but are now getting pounded with rain. I wouldn’t think about traveling here until Friday at the earliest! So sorry for all the well planned vacations that have been upended.
Also the Orlando Airport will be closing today as well
Just heard the Orlando airport is closing in addition to the other ones already closed/planned for closure. Yikes
Thanks Tom, reading your updates as we have family nearby. Stay safe everyone!
Thanks for this Tom stay safe!
Stay safe, Tom and Sarah! Fingers crossed for limited impacts!!!
Leaving on Friday morning for a Friday afternoon arrival. Keeping all fingers and toes crossed this point….
You’re going to need some Disney magic for this one. Orlando international will most likely be closed Thursday and possibly parts of Friday. You may want to have backup plans, just in case.