Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will close early for Hurricane Hilary. This post shares details of the closure of the theme parks and Downtown Disney, plus our commentary and updates on the forecast.
Let’s start with the official news from Disneyland:
We are closely monitoring Hurricane Hilary and making adjustments based on the latest information from the National Weather Service. Disneyland Resort theme parks will close early tomorrow, Sunday Aug. 20, with Disney California Adventure Park closing at 9 p.m. and Disneyland Park closing at 10 p.m.
The Downtown Disney District will close at 11 p.m. Our resort hotels will remain open to serve our guests staying with us on property.
You can find the latest information about park hours, entertainment offerings and other impacts at Disneyland.com. Please continue to check back on our website for any updates.
For those visiting Disneyland on vacation, it’s worth reiterating how rare this is. Hurricane Hilary has triggered California’s first ever tropical storm warning extending from the state’s southern border to just north of Los Angeles.
It’s been over 150 years since a Category 1 storm made landfall in Southern California, when a hurricane is believed to have hit San Diego in 1858. The storm caused considerable devastation; estimates indicate that if a similar storm happened in the 2000s, it would have caused several hundred million dollars in damage.
In addition to that, tropical storm force winds have hit the southwestern United States on four occasions: a 1939 tropical storm in Southern California, Hurricane Joanne in Arizona (1972), Hurricane Kathleen California and Arizona (1976), and Hurricane Nora in Arizona (1997). Only the 1939 tropical storm made a direct landfall in coastal California, and it’s estimated that would’ve caused roughly $200 million in damages to the Long Beach area had it happened in 2004.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency on Saturday for a large portion of Southern California, as the state prepares for the extreme rain, winds, and flooding resulting from Hilary. There are more than 7,500 people deployed to help protect California from the impact of Hurricane Hilary, according to the governor’s office.
Although Hilary has weakened to a Category 2 storm on Saturday as it advanced towards California, the storm is still forecast to pour more than a year’s worth of rain on parts of Southern California. The storm is still a major hurricane moving with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour, moving towards San Diego at 17 mph.
Residents in Southern California are bracing for catastrophic and life-threatening flooding as the system is expected to pummel the region as a rare tropical storm, with the worst weather expected on Sunday into Monday. Rain and flooding from the storm will arrive in advance of Hilary’s core of stronger winds. Those winds could arrive as soon as Sunday morning, along with more dangerous rainfall according to the National Hurricane Center.
The latest update from the National Weather Service indicates that Hilary appears to be weakening quickly. The eye is filling and the cloud tops in the eyewall and rainbands have been warming during the past several hours. In addition, the hurricane has become increasingly asymmetric with dry air continuing to wrap into the western half of the circulation.
The Air Force Hurricane Hunters have been investigating Hilary during the past few hours. Areas of heavy rain are already spreading across portions of the Baja California Peninsula and the Southwestern U.S. Hurricane Hilary is also producing a large area of high seas along the coast of Baja California and the Gulf of California, with maximum significant wave heights estimated to be higher than 40 ft.
Hilary is expected to continue weakening rather quickly while it moves northward due to significantly cooler waters, drier air, and an increase in vertical wind shear. However, Hilary is still expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall or moves very near the central portion of the Baja California Peninsula. There is high confidence that Hilary will move into Southern California as a tropical storm.
Preparations for flooding impacts should be completed as soon as possible, as heavy rainfall will begin well in advance of the center. In the Southwestern U.S., the potentially historic amount of rainfall is expected to cause flash, urban, and arroyo flooding including landslides, mudslides, and debris flows. Dangerous to locally catastrophic flooding impacts are expected late tonight through early Monday.
Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin Sunday in portions of the southwestern U.S. within the Tropical Storm Warning area. Winds could be particularly strong and gusty in and near areas of higher terrain. Gusty winds are expected to spread well inland across the western United States.
Large swells generated by Hilary will affect portions of the Baja California Peninsula and Southern California over the next couple of days. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Hilary is expected to produce rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches throughout Southern California, with some inland areas seeing 4-6 inches and isolated maximum amounts up to 10 inches, through Monday. Peak rain rates will be .50 to 1.0 inches per hour with higher amounts, 1.0 to 1.5 inches per hour, in the mountains and deserts.
Any rain would be a rarity for Anaheim in August, which is historically the driest month of the year. Anaheim typically averages 0.0 inches of rain in August. No matter how the forecast changes or the storm shifts, Disneyland will experience more precipitation this August than 0.0 inches!
Ultimately, that’s what we know so far about Hilary and the early closure of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on Sunday night. Although Disneyland (unsurprisingly) does not have an official hurricane policy, we’ve heard that they’ve informally adopted Walt Disney World’s. This means that Disneyland is informally waiving cancellation fees, penalties, and change fees for those who do not want to visit before or after Hilary.
In addition to closing early on Sunday, there’s likewise a reasonable probability that Disneyland will have a delayed opening on Monday. Depending upon the damage caused by rain and wind, it’s also possible that certain attractions may not open at all. (Jungle Cruise and Tom Sawyer Island being the most obvious candidates.) We’ll keep you posted about any major developments.
If you’re in Southern California or were planning to visit this weekend or early next week, we’d recommend you continue to monitor the weather forecast. Finally, don’t underestimate the potential impact based on your experience with storms elsewhere; as should be obvious from the forgoing, it’ll be different in California–so be careful and stay safe!
Are you currently at Disneyland or in Southern California? Have you visited DLR on rainy days in the past? Any additional info, thoughts, or first-hand experiences to share about storms at Disneyland? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions? 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!