Update: 7AM Wednesday – Here’s the latest update on Hurricane Matthew and its expected impact on Walt Disney World.
Update: as of 5pm Tuesday, storm is scheduled to pass by just east of Central Florida overnight on Thursday. Depending on how far west the eye of the storm goes, it could be a very bumpy ride.
With Hurricane Matthew threatening the eastern seaboard of Florida and, according to local forecasters, potentially moving inland to Orlando, now is a good time to review some safety suggestions regarding what to do during severe weather if you’re visiting Central Florida on vacation.
If you’re staying on property, but have not yet arrived, check Walt Disney World’s Hurricane Policy, which we wrote about earlier this year. If you’re not staying on property but have purchased insurance, now’s the time to talk with your travel agent to explore your options. Even if the storm doesn’t make a direct hit on Walt Disney World, you may have options to reschedule with little or now penalties.
If you’re already in Central Florida or don’t plan to cancel your travel, here are some tips to keep in mind to make sure you stay safe:
1) If you’re staying on Disney property, we learned from Hurricane Charlie that Disney’s resorts have backup generators. So just follow all hotel instructions, don’t take any extra risks, and be safe. You may want to stock up on non-perishable food snacks that don’t require cooking. Each DVC resort has a small store to shop in, the Speedway gas station (located at Disney Springs and adjacent to the Boardwalk Inn) also has some limited items (including bottles of water) and is cheaper than the DVC store. There are two Publix markets a short Uber or Lyft ride away from property too.
2) Have cash on hand. If the hurricane is strong enough, power outages will be wide spread. That means all systems like Disney’s magic band will be down, the ATM network will be inaccessible, and banks and stores won’t open. So have cash out to cover what you might need to buy or to arrange transportation after the storm. How much? That’s really up to you
3) Plan for some in room activities. Board games, coloring books, buy a deck of cards, etc. Think of things that don’t required power because you won’t want to use your mobile phone charge to play games. You’ll want to have a charge in case of emergencies. Stay away from windows during the storm.
4) If you’re staying off property at a hotel, they will also have specific instructions and some may have back up generators. You probably want to inquire now as to what their procedures are. If you feel unsafe, the county will be operating limited Hurricane Shelters, which 311 should be able to direct you to.
5) If you’re renting a vacation house or condo, be sure to stock up on essentials like bottled water, snacks, and items that don’t need to be heated up or refrigerated that you’ll actually eat. If you buy the traditional canned tuna, make sure you have a manual can opener at your place. A devastating hurricane can leave you without food or power for 3 or more days, so be sure to have enough food and water for all. Most major stores will be closed after a storm sine they won’t have any power. If you can put everything outside into the garage, including your car.
6) If you drove into town, make sure to fill up your tank so when the roads are cleared of any debris from the storm, you’ll be able to drive outside of the damage area for your second tank. If you’re driving, be sure to watch for downed power lines and other hazards. Don’t drive into any moving water, even if you think its safe.
7) If your hotel is attached to a convention center, they may evacuate guests to a hardened room with no windows. So have a ‘go bag’ (ie, a small carry on bag that has a change of clothing, medicine, and some snacks for your group). Actually have a ‘go bag’ ready regardless.
Some general advice. Don’t take unnecessary risks. For instance, if the eye of the storm is passing overhead, that’s not an excuse to go outside, it just means another powerful storm wall is coming soon. Keep kids busy with games and talk to them about what’s going on and reassure them that they’re safe.
This is not meant to be a complete list of Hurricane advice for people traveling in Orlando now or over the next few days, but just some suggestions to help you stay safe. Always consult with authorities and listen to local weather forecasters for the latest storm updates. Hopefully Hurricane Matthew will stay to the east and blow by without doing any more serious damage than it’s currently doing tonight in Haiti and the Bahamas. Keep those people in your mind.