A week of stormy afternoons, a week of dry days, a week of tropical squalls: this past week had it all! Did you notice the changes in the weather at Walt Disney World this week? Or is it all just a blur of sun and storm to you? With hurricane season heating up and the rainy season still in full swing, changes can be swift this time of year!
The differences in our weather each day can be subtle to outsiders, but after several weeks of that same-old same-old southwest flow, the changes we’ve seen over the past few days have been real and impactful. Local river flood warnings have been canceled, and saturated ground has gotten a chance to dry out. At the same time, we’ve seen some of the tropics begin to spin up–some new activity that’s sent quickly moving downpours through the area.
What’s going on with this week’s weather at Walt Disney World, and what do you need to know about tropical storm development? Let’s dig in.
Last week’s weather
Last week, the stubborn high pressure system that was hanging out over the Florida Keys finally moved north, taking with it the persistent southwest flow of incredibly moist air that was bringing nonstop rain to the Tampa Bay area, and lots of extra afternoon rain to the Orlando area as well.
The sudden drying of the atmosphere gave us some hot, sunny days at the beginning of the week with just scattered afternoon thunderstorms. The east coast sea breeze got to control our weather pattern for the first time in a while, sparking storms just over Walt Disney World which then moved west, giving us dry, warm evenings with spectacular lightning shows in the distance. Then, the tropical wave moving northwest from the Bahamas showed up.
Tropical systems alternate with dry and wet weather. A tropical disturbance can basically reorganize a broad area of moisture into two compartments of very dry air and very moist air. An approaching tropical storm or hurricane will often disrupt our rain chances, first drying us out, then soaking us as the storm nears or crosses the area, and then giving us a dry day as it pulls away.
We saw this pattern on Thursday—dry—and Friday—soaking tropical rains from mid-morning through the afternoon—and we might just see it again later, as the hurricane season continues to heat up.
This week’s weather at Walt Disney World
Sunday started off mainly hot and dry as the tropical low pulls away from Florida. It’s moving northeast and will be no threat to Florida even if it develops into a named storm. But the dry air it leaves behind will suppress our afternoon storm chances, pushing highs into the mid-90s with heat index readings in the 100-105 degree territory.
Monday through Friday, the sea breeze fronts should have plenty of moisture to work with. The afternoon thunderstorm chances go up to 50-60% for the week, which means we have a pretty good chance of enjoying some cooling rain and/or scattering like crazy when lightning strikes more closely than we expected. Temperatures will stay on the hot side of August normals, with mid-afternoon highs reaching 90-94 degrees before storms close in.
It’s a largely normal forecast for once without too many wild cards shifting the balance of rain and sun, but towards the end of the week, things could change. There is the potential for a trough of low pressure to settle over Florida by Friday, which could boost rain chances even higher at the end of the week. Models are iffy on this, so just go with a strong chance of afternoon storms each day for now.
Tropical Weather Update: Tropical Storm Dorian
As of Sunday, we’re in the very early stages of tracking Dorian, a tropical storm located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. The earliest potential for Dorian to affect the Florida peninsula is the weekend, but any reliable forecasts regarding a Florida landfall will not be available until midweek at the earliest. And that all depends upon how quickly this storm moves through the Caribbean.
The National Hurricane Center is stressing that “Dorian is likely to be a difficult cyclone to forecast.” That’s because the environment around Dorian, while it looks like wide open sea, is actually a mishmash of dry air aloft, some wind shear, and warm ocean waters.
What they do expect is for Dorian to continue to move west-northwest and then northwest through the Caribbean for the next few days, affecting the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea, with a possible landfall in Hispaniola on Thursday.
When should you start worrying about Dorian and your vacation plans? If you’re visiting Walt Disney World or the Florida region (or the entire southeastern coastline of the United States, to be honest) on Labor Day Weekend, you should always have the potential for a tropical cyclone impact somewhere at the back of your mind. Realize that at this point, Dorian could affect Florida, or Texas, or Mexico, or even North Carolina: the data simply doesn’t support a reliable forecast more than three days out at this point. Midweek, we should know more.
But if you want to make some plans, take a look back at this post from June for a summary of how tropical cyclones can affect WDW vacations.
Then, just stay informed. Look for hype-free weather resources. Predicting the weather is a science, and having grown up in Florida, I can tell you first-hand that hurricane prediction has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past decade alone. Science is about measured, sensible analysis—not pageviews, and not clicks. So don’t fall for hype from frenzied headlines. Find sources you can trust, either written by experts or by people who can translate the experts for you.
I’ll provide regular updates at my Twitter account, WeatheratWDW. I also like local meteorologist and theme park fan Eric Burris, who provides updates on Facebook and Twitter, plus a morning live stream called Coffee Talk with lots of great weather chat.