As you can read, I have published this piece several times during the beginning of our rainy season here in Florida. Our weather can be beautiful, but many times dangerous, i.e. THUNDERSTORMS. As the lightning capital of the world, we have to be diligent and use common sense, and that goes for visits to our favorite place, Walt Disney World. But during the last few weeks during the start of the season, I am appalled at the disregard or ignorance that many guests at the World show during a thunderstorm. So here is the piece again, I hope that but taking the advice offered in the article, folks will realize that these beautiful, but violent and dangerous storms are not to be taken lightly…
Several years ago I wrote a piece about Florida’s weather and how it affects our outings to Walt Disney World. Since this year’s rainy season is in full swing, and it’s been pretty active, I decided to delve into the subject once again. Many people think that Florida is unbearably hot and sticky in the summer and is the target for ever hurricane that forms. Yes, it is hot here, but if you really look at the nation’s weather, you’ll find that very, very rarely do we ever hit the century mark. But check out the temps in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma or even Minnesota, they have digit’s many times past the 100 degree mark.
Weather is a fascinating subject for me, being a pilot; I have to be very cognizant about it, so let’s get the lowdown on Florida and its unique weather. Florida’s climate is classified as humid and subtropical in the central and northern parts and South Florida is tropical. We are known as the lighting capital of the world, and believe it or not, we have more tornados per square mile than any other state. But these tornados are nowhere as robust, and are much shorter lived that those in “Tornado Alley” What makes Florida’s weather so unique is that it’s a peninsula which is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Atlantic on the east. Both these bodies of water are the forging forces for our storms, lightning and of course, hurricanes (We’ll talk about them later)
Our rainy season is from June to September, and that includes our hurricane season. What cause our thunderstorms are the sea breezes from the Gulf and Atlantic, which clash together in the center of the states, and along with the heat of the day, causes huge columns of moist air to rise, forming the thunderstorms. Some of these storms can rise to 50 or 60 thousand feet, and those storms have frequent lightning and gusty winds. Our dry season is from October to May, and is the best time to visit Walt Disney World. I am going to offer some tips and information about the weather here that might help in planning a trip here and help planning when you get here.
Now most people are going to say, “This is nothing but common sense!” But you would be surprised how many guests I see walking around the parks holding umbrellas in a thunderstorm! Every outdoor ride, even the Railroad is shut down during these storms. But holding an umbrella is like holding on to a lightning rod. Always use those nifty Mickey rain parkas; they will keep you much safer and much drier! For the majority, our thunder storms usually last only around a half hour to an hour, pass by and it’s the sunshine state again. I recommend for anyone traveling here in the rainy season to use their smartphones and tablets and log on to… www.cfnews13.com. This local station is the weather bible for central Florida. Load this up and you can see their Doppler radar for all of Florida, or any county you want. Best of all, they have an “Attractions” area where you can see what’s going on at Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal. And as much respect as I have for the weatherman, even when they say 20 per cent chance of rain, come prepared anyway! I cannot tell you how many times we have heard that forecast and all of a sudden, that bright sunshine turned into a real gully washer. And some days, they called for 60 per cent chance of rain and not a drop. So just come prepared for rain, and expect that it will thunder and lightning.
With this station, you can actually see the storms, their size and intensity, and watch as they move across the area you’re checking, and make your plans accordingly. Again, common sense, but so many people don’t seem to take these thunderstorms seriously. The storms here, compared to New Jersey where I used to live are extremely intense with much lightning. When I first moved here, I did not take them seriously at first either, but what made me a believer was one day a few years back, during a storm that by Florida standards was not that severe, I was in the garage when a blinding white light and the loudest boom I have ever heard almost threw me to the ground. Lighting struck the top of the house, blew an eighteen inch square hole in the roof and several electronic appliances bit the dust. The fact that it was raining hard probably prevented a fire, which is what happens to many homes down here when they get struck. After that I immediately installed a lightning arrester system, and now have a healthy respect for these storms.
Stay indoors during these storms. Again common sense, but I see guests walking around, again with umbrellas, and some just strolling in these storms, walking through huge puddles, just an invite to disaster. Wait out the rain in an eatery, have a coffee till it passes, which is usually quick. But not all rain has lightning or thunder. And for the most part, once the sun sets and the heat of the day is gone, you will just love the balmy and beautiful tropical nights here. Just perfect for watching those fireworks. Now for the hurricanes. Believe it or not, since I have been studying the weather, Florida’s weather is really not as bad as in many parts of the country. Just look at the violent and tragic twisters in Tornado Alley, and read the sad stories of how many towns are wiped off the map, lives lost and displaced. Or in California, the mudslides and wildfires that displace so many people, not to mention the earthquakes. Even in New Jersey, that storm devastated much of the Jersey shore. But the hurricanes here can be deadly. But unlike most weather phenomena, with modern radar and computer imaging and tracking, an approaching hurricane is known days, even weeks in advance. This gives ample time to plan and get out of its way.
So, with all this in mind, when coming to Walt Disney World, come prepared. Sunscreen, especially if you are light-skinned. Down here the sun’s angle is very high, and you will get burned if you do not take precautions. I recommend a wide-brimmed hat, preferable water proof. Take along for each member of your group, those mini-umbrellas that can slip into your pockets. Of course use these ONLY if no lightning or thunder is present! (Common sense). Either buy these at the parks or before coming…rain parkas. I find them easier to navigate around in the rain than carrying an umbrella, plus your camera and other goodies will stay dry under it. If you have the room in a knapsack or stroller, a few small towels to dry off with. They are a lifesaver. Another tip… With many on a budget, we have to save when we can. Keep hydrated, it gets hot here! My wife and I always carry our clip on water bottles, but we also take along those Milo or off-brand drink enhancers. Just fill the bottle, a quick squirt and the whole crew can have a flavored drink for next to nothing, a big savings.
Another tip… Bring along those rubberized sandals or flip-flops. With the exception of maybe December through early February, we wear nothing else. Again, another “Well, that’s just common sense”, but I see so many guests walking around in sneakers or other such garb, and getting caught in a storm and your footwear gets soaking wet; it’s not fun. Wear light clothes, stay away from dark shirts which absorb the heat like a sponge. I sometimes wonder how some guests can walk around in jeans and black shirts in the summertime.
Weather is one of the biggest natural wonders that affect everyone on the planet. It is a constant denominator in everything we do. But with careful planning and keeping an eye to the sky and Doppler radar, we can plan around it, and even avoid it. Taking a trip to Walt Disney World, no matter what time of the year is one of the most planned vacations in the world. And with a little “Common Sense” you can enjoy some of the country’s best weather and the most Magical Place on earth!