It’s almost hard to remember that two weeks ago, Central Florida was dealing with unseasonably hot and dry weather. Since the beginning of June, the rainy season has been bringing us clouds, afternoon and evening storms, and temperatures that have been trending down towards a normal average in the high 80s. See? I told you 99 degrees wasn’t going to hang around!
The trade-off has been very high humidity, especially in the early mornings. If you head out for a pre-park jog thinking that at least it will be cool out, that muggy, soupy air is probably an unwelcome surprise. We had a quick burst of dry air on Thursday and Friday, but that’s already gone. For at least Sunday through Thursday of this week, look for tropical weather pattern with extreme humidity (70-80% when you wake up!) and scattered to numerous afternoon thunderstorms.
There have also been several days with severe storms in the area, most notably on Wednesday, when Walt Disney World property was affected by a very strong storm with frequent lightning and heavy rain which lasted for several hours. There was a Significant Weather Advisory issued for this storm by the National Weather Service. I’ve seen quite a few advisories issued this season already and I expect plenty more, so if you use a weather app, be sure to open it once you arrive in the parks so that its GPS can match up with your location and let you know if there are weather alerts.
This week’s weather at the parks
Here’s what it will look like: humid, mostly sunny mornings with temperatures in the 70s will quickly heat up to around 90 degrees, with clouds popping up and thickening after midday. Tropical moisture and prevailing southerly winds will help the sea breeze interact with daytime land heating to produce numerous thunderstorms each afternoon. Summer storms typically fade around sunset, but some days, conditions could favor late-evening storms. Check my Twitter feed, WeatheratWDW, for daily updates on whether the forecast favors afternoon or evening storms. Remember: storms will be hit or miss on most days. A rainy afternoon at Magic Kingdom could be a sunny blast of heat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Conditions will still favor the quick development of very strong storms. As mentioned in last week’s post, the opening ten to fifteen minutes of these storms can bring a blast of gusty winds, torrential rain, and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. When you see low-hanging, dark clouds and hear thunder, make a quick decision about where you’re going to wait for this violent part of the storm to pass.
Summer weather and FastPass+
When a storm with lightning is in the area, outdoor attractions at Walt Disney World have to close down for safety reasons. Since storms here can be small and isolated, but still produce dangerous lightning bolts (which can travel upwards of ten to fifteen miles from their origin) you might not even see a cloud in the sky, but find out that Splash Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, or Expedition: Everest are closed for weather concerns.
This can be a serious factor in your park touring plans, especially if you follow the typical FastPass+ pattern of riding standby in the morning, and using your FastPass+ times during the more crowded afternoons. Lightning can not only cause your attraction to go down during your FastPass+ reservation time, it can cause wait times to go up for that attraction for the rest of the day.
That’s because when your attraction isn’t available during your FastPass+ reservation window, Disney will typically open up your FastPass+ to be used at that attraction (and many others) throughout the rest of the day. The longer the downtime, the more company you’ll have when you come back to ride the attraction you had originally booked to ride much earlier… and the longer everyone will wait in that FastPass+ line.
Of course, you can also use this downtime to your advantage. I have been known to book the Jungle Cruise when what I really wanted wasn’t available, because I liked my chances that the Jungle Cruise would be down for weather during my reservation time and I’d be given the opportunity to use my FastPass+ elsewhere!
But all in all, if you’re coming down on vacation you probably have a list of attractions you don’t want to miss… and you don’t want to let weather ruin your chances. If Kilimanjaro Safaris is on your vacation bucket list and you only have one day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to score that morning time to ride it—or be willing to queue up in the morning and have a FastPass+ for late evening to give it a second go, should the weather gods permit.
The same goes for every outdoor attraction, from Dumbo to Test Track, which can be shut down for lengthy amounts of time, right up to park close, thanks to Florida’s very typical, very predictable afternoon thunderstorms.
And speaking of planning your FastPass+ around the weather, be smart about when you want to be outside, and what your planned attractions will actually be like when you are going to be on them. Kilimanjaro Safaris, for example, is best on summer mornings and summer evenings, especially if a storm has left behind clouds and a little drizzle. The animals love the cool weather, and look for shelter and shade during the hot middle of the day. If you’re hoping to see a lion up and about, or more of a hippo than bubbles rising from the center of their pond, you’d better avoid midday safaris.
So consider showing up for outdoor attractions in the early morning, and book indoor attractions for afternoon ride times. The Haunted Mansion is always a great afternoon bet: it produces its own lightning, so you won’t be too surprised when you exit after your 3 PM ride and the sky looks like doom. Just… have a plan for waiting out that storm. Maybe the Peter Pan’s Flight extended queue?
How do you use the weather to your advantage when planning your FastPass+ strategies? Let us know in the comments.