Disney EchoEar Grand Mouseter
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: July 07, 2005, 5:57 pm
To Bambi: No it's not a repeat of last summer, this is WORSE than last summer in that we had four named storms by Independence Day, which indicates a VERY active and unusually early season. The Gulf waters are very warm right now, favoring strengthening of Dennis from a Category 3 to a 4. The famous Hurricane Camille of the 1960s was a Category 5.
What's hugely bad is that the Gulf waters aren't going to cool down 'til October. We usually see the level of activity we're seeing now in mid-August through the end of September. With it starting so early we might be getting more named storms, earlier, that make landfall somewhere on either the continental U.S. or Mexico.
Last year named storms didn't really start happening 'til August.
And the Florida Panhandle and Baldwin County, Alabama (where Gulf Shores is) are still reeling from Hurricane Ivan last September 2004. There's still debris of damaged and demolished buildings that hasn't been cleared away. A bridge of I-10 east-west over Pensacola Bay just got fixed and contractors are being hired to install a permanent replacement. Ivan had washed some of that bridge away last year. I-10 east-west travel is important for interstate commerce, but a lot of us here would know it as a major Interstate taking us to WDW. The economy over there is perking up to the point ads are being run inviting summer vacationers to that area of Florida beaches, but it usually takes YEARS to recover from a major hurricane, and Florida after having been hit four times in 2004 is still trying to overcome what happened.
Utilidor gave a lot of good advice.
I'd add to that if you are car or RV travelling to/from Orlando in the next few days, or in days when a major hurricane threatens to make landfall, anywhere in the U.S. LISTEN UP:
Be aware of traffic concerns along your route to Florida or home from Florida. There is a notion of traffic flow for evacuees called "contraflow". Basically, Interstate highways have lanes going in one direction, and lanes in the opposite direction. To facilitate evacuees from low lying or mandatory/voluntary evacuation areas to leave, the state highway patrol in a given area will CLOSE certain lanes of Interstate, and even some on-ramps, and make ALL lanes of Interstate one-way. Means some cars will have the dubious treat of driving on the "wrong" side of the road but all cars on all lanes will be headed in the same direction, which is AWAY FROM harm's way areas towards INLAND. Contraflow can be totally across a state if it means quickly getting people out of a harm's way area.
I guess you can find this out by checking National Hurricane Center website and that "Five-Day Cone" graphic thay have for each storm. Most coasts are low lying, so assume some traffic problems with getting people out and the Interstates or even some state highways being clogged. It's like an ongoing rush-hour traffic jam, except it goes for miles outside of populated areas and is mainly one-way out of the area. If an area is within the cone, no matter what state of the U.S., then you can start from a basic assumption that low-lying areas within that cone are vulnerable and people may be asked to leave there, meaning traffic if all you're doing is passing through.
The other way you can find out traffic information is by Google. Use keywords like "NameOfState official traffic information". What you're after is any given state's official highway agency, and they should have a link to highway conditions in that state, such as road construction, closures, detours, etc. They may also illustrate the contraflow plan that is being implemented. Play with the key words, insert "contraflow" if needed, and eventually you'll come up with a site and links.
And know this: Orlando is considered "inland" by Floridians, and the natives of that region head to Orlando hotels to shelter. If the locals know it and trust it, when in Rome do what the Romans do! Except you're in Orlando and not Rome, but you get the picture.
Groceries: Non-Perishable. Canned or not requiring cooking. Try to bring reasonably nutritious and balanced (meats and tuna, vegetables, fruits) . Bring drinks that are nutritious and not overly sugary that do not require refrigeration, fruit juices in jugs that reseal, water jugs by the gallon or bottled water by the case to equal gallons, sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade. Bring personal toiletries (deoderant, body powder, ladies bring menstrual period supplies and over the counter discomfort relief) and over the counter and prescription medicines or items (band-aids, Tylenol, antacids, etc. ) . Bring or have a MANUAL CAN OPENER. If the power goes out an electric can opener is useless and if you are evacuating to a shelter a manual can opener is easier to pack and use there.
About the traffic "contraflow" local residents should do what their local news media is recommending. If your local stations have hurricane tracking maps with the contraflow traffic plan on it, go get a copy and keep it handy. If your local TV station explains how to access traffic arteries outbound, using this or that road if you live in such and such a place, then LISTEN.
In fact if your local news media (TV, radio, local cable system, local newspapers) puts out useful preparation, stocking up, evacuation, and aftermath tips, LISTEN and HEED and DO. Now is the time, if a hurricane is coming to your locality, to start paying strict attention to the news. Get a little radio, find out what your local news/talk station is, and have plenty of batteries for that radio. From local media you hear news of the above, you'll know the routes to take outbound, you'll know if your child's activities are cancelled or not, you'll know when major employers or local institutions stop work or reenter working, you'll know when it's safe to use the water supply again in the aftermath, or where to get help if you need it, where to get sandbags, etc.
Don't assume power lines that are down are dead. Do not touch! Call the local electric utility to report it.
If you're at Disney World: Fort Wilderness Campground will close, due to the danger of falling trees. You can either leave entirely, or you may be offered a resort room to ride the storm out in.
If you are in a resort room, expect WRITTEN instructions in your room about what to do. KNOW THAT AT SOME POINT THE EMPLOYEES OF YOUR RESORT WILL BE ALLOWED TO GO HOME TO PROTECT THEIR HOMES AND BE WITH THEIR FAMILIES. Some Disney Cast Members (Disney-speak for "employees" ) are offered the chance to "ride out" the storm at resorts. Their function is to see to guest safety and basic comforts, and monitor the course of the storm and report to a central authority anything unusual that happens (damages, etc.)
You will be asked to stock up on non-perishable groceries and drinks for your own family, batteries, toiletries and over the counter medical items at your own expense. You may be supplied with a flashlight. Follow written instructions. If you DON'T receive written instructions DO go to the hotel desk or ride out crew member and ASK. Any questions at all, ask or inform a ride out crew member. Don't forget scissors or a manual can opener to get your non-perishable things open. You may find local groceries and home repair places a la Home Depot and Lowe's nearly depleted of items if you wait too long, since everyone else is stocking up, too. Don't forget to buy bottled water by the gallon jug if available, otherwise any bottled water by the case is fine. A gallon per person per day is the guideline.
You CANNOT expect: Room service, turndown service, clean-up of the sheets and vacuuming and cleaning of the bathroom on a daily basis, the restaurant or food court to be open, guest services to do much beyond seeing to your basic comfort and safety 'til the storm is over, the parks to stay open, the parks to keep regular hours until all buildings and rides are inspected for their saety and function after the storm, to freely drive around until roads are cleared of debris, you might not expect electricity to stay on or phone service or cell phone service to continue and if you make phone or cell calls keep them BRIEF and to the point since others are trying to call and the systems may overload.
Expect you will be asked to bring in lounge chairs and furniture if your room or balcony have them, shut all doors and windows and draw the curtains shut. Before this, park your car AWAY FROM any water lakes or streams or canals or ponds, as high as possible, and LOCK IT. Get any personal items or valuable items out of the car. Try to park in wide open spaces away from big trees that could fall on it. Back in your room: All the hotel channels will have entertaining family programs and movies on, you also have local TV to monitor news. DON'T GO OUTSIDE. Let the TV reporters do that for you. Flying debris is more than leaves coming off trees, at hurricane wind speeds flying objects can come off buildings, including plywood and nails, branches, unsecured objects of any kind, and at those wind speeds you can become very injured. It's STUPID to go outside, don't do it. Expect IN WRITING specific instructions from Disney. If you don't receive anything at all, go and ASK.
You can feed off your non-perishable food and beverage stash and basically you do what others who are staying home and riding out the storm are doing, watching, waiting, hoping, developing cabin fever, ruing the day, getting impatient and the like. If you feel these things, you are NORMAL and not alone. But the weather is as the weather is, and everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. It's not the emotions, those are honest human reactions. It's how you ACT on your emotions you need to watch out for. Disney can't do a thing about the weather and neither can you. Disney can see to your basic needs, but not cater to you, during the weather emergency, so let it go. They have a huge park and resort complex worth millions of dollars to see about, as well as basic guest needs, so understand and let "the small stuff" of life roll off your back.
Some low-lying area rooms may get water inside, or if a window breaks.... Move to the hallway, notify the ride-out crew, follow their instructions. Even at the Deluxe resorts, in 2004 there were some rooms with some water and at the Contemporary there were some isolated problems. They may elect to move guests to ballrooms with no windows, to ride the storm out there. Follow these instructions and go with the flow. Locals are holed up in high school gymnasiums sheltering and in simliar buildings, so you're doing the same thing, only one notch better. Count your blessings.
Disney will issue "all clear" when things are absolutely safe, such as when to venture outdoors. They will tell you when the parks will reopen. Local media that you can view in your room fills in other details, and does your exploring to look at damage for you, so don't joy ride. Don't ride over "puddles" of water that seem OK, in some roads the road is actually WASHED OUT and your car can hit a sunken pothole you didn't know was there, flooding the engine or causing some car damage.
Let's say: "OK, I don't want to deal with ANY of that, no matter what the safe and satisfied guests of Disney experienced last year. I want to cancel my plans and not go to Disney at all."
READ ANY DOCUMENTS THAT WALT DISNEY TRAVEL Co. OR YOUR TRAVEL AGENT SEND YOU ABOUT CANCELLATION POLICY.
For hurricanes in 2004 Disney was gracious and allowed cancellations of confirmed reservations up to a day or so of a storm's expected impact date. BUT READ YOUR PAPERS to know exactly what the general policy is. You may also have to undo plane reservations, airport to hotel shuttles or town cars, tours, dining reservations, babysitting services, car rentals, etc.
Let's say: "I'm in Orlando now and I want to cancel my vacation NOW due to the impending weather!"
There is a window of opportunity to be able to leave Orlando International Airport. Outbound flights may be full on short notice. At some point the AIRPORT WILL CLOSE. THE AIRPORT IS NOT A SHELTER. After the storm, at some point the airport will reopen. Outbound flights may be full on short notice or it may take some airlines a bit of time to get back in operation, depending on local conditions. Do not call the airport about anything. News media informs you when it closes and reopens and which airlines are operating or not. Listen to news media. Deal DIRECTLY WITH YOUR AIRLINE for flight information and rebooking flights.
You will have to deal with cancelling tours, returning rental cars, cancelling dining, etc. CALL YOUR AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE OR TOWNCAR COMPANY to make SURE they can pick you up on short notice or to adjust your arrangements with them should your plans change. Ask about refunds or rain checks. Make EARLY PLANS to leave. Traffic on the roads and interstates will be awful, very slow, it's an abnormal temporary situation due to the storm. If you wait too late you can't go, either the airport will close, or it's so slow traffic you might miss the flight, or you cannot get a flight booking.
So have a plan before travelling in hurricane season or during the August-September peak of hurricane season.
BEST BET: Hurricane season is June 1-November 30 annually. The peak months are August and September. If you have travel plans for Orlando at any time between June 1-November 30 and are concerned about being "stuck" there due to a tropical weather system.... KNOW BEFORE YOU BOOK! ASK ASK ASK what cancellation policies are, refund policies, rain check policies, how to leave if your plans suddenly change, how to undo your plans and work WITH that travel or leisure services provider or airline or car rental agency in a high stress situation such as hurricane approaching. If you are renting a car but riding out the storm at Disney, ASK the rental service what should you do about protecting the car or returning it so you are not liable for damages. Think of all the possibilities for yourself and ASK before you make firm plans. Remember everything said to you, write it down, and contact phone numbers, people's names, addresses, date they told you these things. If you go through with your plans, follow these instructions.
Walt Disney Travel Co. and travel agents can help you undo or rearrange your plans. In 2004 official Disney announcements and how they actually worked with travellers under hurricane circumstances were that you could undo or change any travel arrangements as long as you booked those through WD Travel or a travel agent. If you booked any other way, you're on your own. If you book through WD Travel Co. or a travel agent ASK ASK ASK those "What if...?" questions regarding hurricanes and changing your plans.
Let's say: "I want a refund for my deposits, or unused portion of my vacation."
Ask before you book, keep all documents and receipts, know who you spoke with and when and what was said. Look for "loopholes" or plead your case. Go higher up in management, and go higher still, until you get satisfaction. STAY POLITE AND BUSINESSLIKE CORDIAL. Swearing and anger doesn't obtain answers or refunds or rain checks, they know you are frustrated, but try to work WITH others in stressful situations, knowing ahead of time what policies are will certainly help you in the long run. If you book with a travel agent or Walt Disney Travel, ask ask ask ahead of time, follow what they recommended you do should the need arise.
Clark Howard is a syndicated radio talk show host who helps listeners get the most bang for their buck, avoid ripoffs, save money vs. overspending. He's written books (published by Disney's Hyperion publishing company) . His website is
Clark has a lot of travel expertise, too. Look up on his site, using his search engine, his take on travel, cancellations, flying on standby, being bumped from planes due to overbookings, cancellations if travelling, car rentals and how to deal with claims of "damage" while the car was rented to you, using credit cards as payment and what rights you have when you do that, the dangers of checking account debit cards, etc. Use key words, play around with the key words. Your eyes will be opened! A lot of good tips over there, do check them out. His site has a list of radio stations carrying his show, check that out, too.
Travel insurance may or may not help you recoup portions of your vacation you may have to "eat" due to impending weather. READ TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICIES CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU BUY. Know what is covered and reimburseable and what isn't, and if that is worth the cost of buying some.
Disney Cruise Line would route around storms, not completely follow usual itineraries or simply not carry passengers when storms threatened, they would head to safe seas until danger had passed. If you are booked on Disney Cruise Line during June 1-November 30 and especially in peak months of August and September and hurricanes concern you, ASK ASK ASK what they plan to do, cancellation policies (READ YOUR DOCUMENTS ) or ask a travel agent who helped you to book about these questions. Better to ask BEFORE you book anything firm. If you are concerned and not feeling well about that season of the year, book at a different season.
If you ride the storm out inside a Disney resort, those are very strong and secure. There will be people with you employed by Disney, but it's also basic sheltering type things without luxury treatment. Expect to be informed and stay informed from Disney, if you are not in the know about anything don't sit and stew and be mystified, ASK! Those who rode out in 2004's busy season have mostly high praises for how Disney handled things with Guests.
To have solid reliable facts is to have confidence. To have confidence is to be secure and have sure direction in life. So get solid reliable facts based on your travelling party and their unique needs. The instructions and advisories and tips offered by news media, travel agents and entities of the travel industry are well thought out. This wheel's already been invented. So do fact-gathering, work WITH entities instead of inspite of them, be secure in knowledge of facts, be patient, and all will go well.
College Program participants at WDW will be given opportunity to shelter in Vista Way, their apartment complex. Some will be given ride-out duty opportunities at the resorts or elsewhere on property. Vista Way is very securely built. See 2004 hurricane threads in the Disney Cast Member Forum, scroll around. CP folks need to have the self-responsibility to see to getting flashlights, batteries, radios, non-perishable foods, manual can opener, personal care and toiletry items and to follow all instructions from their employer, Disney, about working, not working, returning to work.
It may be a while, depending on damage in the area, before E-mail, Internet sites, telephone land line and cellular phone service is restored. Assume "local damage" rather than anything awful happening to loved ones in a hurricane area. Services can take days, even a couple of weeks, to fully restore. STAY OFF THE PHONES as much as possible, let emergency services have the bandwidth and whatever isn't damaged for communicating to each other. If you get through, keep it BRIEF and to the point, then get off the phone or off line.
Roads outbound may be clogged with fellow travellers also trying to get out, or return to an area. Storm damage can affect interstate roads causing detours. It will take LONGER THAN NORMAL to get from any Point A to any Point B. There is nothing that can be done, except to listen to highway traffic reports on local news media, heed their advisories, and be patient with the matters at hand. Contraflow routes may mean if you get on the Interstate at X-point you may be forced to travel to X-destination whether you like it or not. In New Orleans if you want to specifically travel/evacuate to X-location, you have to plan how to get on the Interstate at a point where the traffic flow plan will allow you to go to X-destination, so you are not forced to go to an unwanted away-point destination instead. You get this info from state highway patrol departments and highway departments, so use Google for this purpose. The contraflow will likely be similar to what New Orleans and Louisiana have worked out for itself since Hurricane Ivan in 2004. So find out fitting your own local driving needs. AT SOME POINT DRIVING TRAVEL MAY BE LIMITED OR HALTED DUE TO WEATHER CONDITIONS, OR POST STORM ROAD DAMAGE CONDITIONS, INCLUDING ON INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS.
So again it's keeping abreast of news via news-talk radio or radios that pick up TV station signals, some TV stations have agreements with FM radio stations to simulcast the audio of continuous coverage. So be aware, suck it in, LISTEN CAREFULLY. Most of what you need to know is going to come from local news media in print, radio, TV. You can Google what stations are along your route of travel or which are in Orlando, see list earlier in this thread.
If you are out of state and want to follow local news media in Orlando or a hurricane prone area, go to the World Wide Web! These stations have web sites and in a major metro area such as Orlando they feature streaming audio and video, and the Orlando Sentinel is very savvy about keeping their newspaper's website up to date. It's a reassuring way to keep track of WDW and loved ones visiting and "stuck" there. Having facts is reassuring, even though the sight of rain and bending trees may not seem reassuring. Still, it beats sitting at home and worrying and wondering in a mystery cloud. So know the facts, and check these sites out.
Last things: If you are a traveller but discover hotels and motels along the way are very booked up and a hurricane is approaching, know that these places are booked by evacuees and even hotels-motels hugely far away from a landfall site can be booked up by evacuees from an affected region. In relation to New Orleans, where I'm posting from, hotels in advance of Hurricane Dennis in July 2005 are being booked up in Memphis, Little Rock, Monroe and Shreveport LA, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta.
If you book anything through online travel services such as Hot Wire, Travelocity, Priceline and others: READ THE FINE PRINT ABOUT EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU HIT THE AGREEMENT AND ACCEPTANCE BUTTON. There's a travel column in our Sunday newspaper travel section about people who book using online agencies but changes happen or unexpected things happen, or flight connections are screwed up, and they cannot undo it, customer service is no help, and they cannot get refunds when they are seemingly due to the traveller. Point being: KNOW BEFORE YOU BOOK. Worst case scenarios are rare, but can and do happen. Check out Clark Howard.com, above in an earlier message is the URL and link, and search his site for this sort of information.
Know particularly, if you are a hurricane evacuee, that what you think is a booked room reservation can be leased out from under you if you fail to show up on time, call or reconfirm, even if you have a credit card securing the reservation. People make phantom reservations waiting to see what route they will take, then don't show or fail to cancel. It's also possible you'll be charged, even if you are late showing up, and the room leased to someone else as well! So read that fine print on those travel sites, know to keep calling and reconfirming. Traffic if you are driving away from the storm can be crawling for hours on end, taking you double and nearly double and a half or triple time than normal to reach an evacuation destination. Coming home can be just as bad with traffic. It happened during evacuations for Hurricane Ivan in 2004. So be aware!
(Multiple helpful replies by Carol from yesterday and today were combined into this one by Rich)