Hello, fall! Temperatures are falling, humidity is dropping, the sunsets are coming earlier, and tropical systems are bringing us tornadoes. Wait, what?
Yes, I’m afraid that’s fall in Florida. Everything is going just fine, and then a late-season cyclone brings enough wind shear to scare up some tornadoes and enough moisture for some flooding rains.
Luckily, the coming final full week of October is slated to be much quieter!
Last week’s weathermakers
A cold front which stalled to our south, then retrograded north as a warm front, plus the weak but wet Tropical Storm Nestor, were the big stories over the past week. Before the rain, the sun was strong — Central Florida saw some high temperature records fall as our afternoon highs soared into the 90s.
Friday the weather turned gloomy, as our warm front and Nestor brought clouds and the threat of rain. By late evening Walt Disney World was looking pretty soggy, with heavy downpours moving through the parks. In nearby Polk County, a tornado touched down and created some significant damage to some homes and a school. Luckily, the severe weather steered clear of the attractions area. By Saturday afternoon, things were definitely brightening up.
This week’s weather at Walt Disney World
Dry air will take charge on Sunday. If you’ve been reading this column throughout hurricane reason, say it with me: departing tropical systems suck all the moisture from the air! Catchy slogan, I know.
So if you love sunshine and breezes, Sunday’s your day. Temperatures will get toasty in the upper 80s and that sun will feel hot. Warm enough, in fact, that on Monday and Tuesday, as moisture re-enters our region, there will be a chance of afternoon sea-breeze thunderstorms.
Tuesday night, a cool front will dip through Central Florida. Temperatures won’t drop a lot, but the lows overnight Tuesday will be in the mid-60s. The northeast wind behind the front should drop our Wednesday highs down to a manageable 83-85 degrees.
Thursday through Saturday should repeat the pattern of the first half of the week. An approaching front will bring enough moisture to the area to encourage afternoon sea-breeze storms to develop.
The second front’s arrival time looks like late Friday night into Saturday, and models indicate it might pack a little more punch than the first one, but meteorologists aren’t too happy with our model’s long-range prediction so far this season. So prep for rain next Friday and Saturday if you’re packing for vacation, and if we don’t get too much… great!
All week expect highs in the 80s and lows in the low 70s to mid 60s, fluctuating daily according to the progression of these cold fronts on Tuesday night and Friday night.
Tropical weather outlook
There… isn’t one! There are no tropical systems after Nestor, and nothing is expected in the next five days.
Cold front season in Central Florida
Well, it’s here: the volatile fall/winter cold front season. Do you love packing for vacations? Do you love packing for four seasons in one day? Then you’re going to love cold front season in Central Florida!
Granted, it’s early yet and our version of a cold front is lows in the 60s and maybe a cool start to the day (cue the hoodies and spirit jerseys on every shivering local) before the sun blazes us back up to a solid 85 or even 90 degrees.
But as we near November, we might start seeing genuine cool-downs. The first lows in the 50s usually visit Orlando around November 5.
What should you expect when a cold front is in your vacation forecast? Naturally, there are weak cold fronts, strong ones, and everything in between. But typically, a few things happen in the same order.
First, a strong line of storms with heavy rain behind them moves through the area. Since the cold front is usually moving east, and we are receiving its southernmost area of activity, the individual storm cells are moving northeast while the entire body of rain moves east with the front itself.
This usually does two things: it makes the progression on the radar look really deceptive in terms of when the rain will actually arrive, and it increases the risk of gusty winds and even tornadoes within the strong storm cells. Generally, only a few cold fronts each season will bring us an elevated tornado risk. But it’s good to keep in mind that any embedded storm could surprise you with sudden, gusty winds which could send tree debris or even pool furniture flying.
Once the rain moves through, the wind sticks around—and sometimes, the cold temperatures! The day after a cold front is the chilliest, blustery and bone-chilling. Listen, you’re going to laugh when I describe the 50s as bone-chilling, and I get that. But as a person who has worked in theme parks for a long time, trust me when I say people get much, much colder than they expected. This is why the parks do a brisk sale of hats, gloves, and hoodies after each cold front. When you’re spending the entire day outside with the wind whipping through the pathways and howling across the Seven Seas Lagoon, you’re going to start feeling the chill creep in.
By the next day, things are going to start returning to normal—unless we’re in the depths of winter and a pool of arctic air has managed to spill across the southeast U.S. But that’s more of a January-March problem, and, frankly, it’s almost too hard to imagine right now.
The bottom line is, for your fall vacations to Walt Disney World, don’t be afraid to throw some hoodies, long sleeves, and maybe even a scarf into your suitcase. If you’re here for more than four or five days on your trip, chances are you will see a cold front… and if it’s a strong one, it will bring some serious fluctuations in weather to your trip.