Does anybody know if there was any damage at the parks or resorts from Huricane Charley?
I have been waiting on someone to offer something on this question too. Hopefully there was no damage.
We too have been wondering. The photos on the damage in Orlando look pretty bad so I would imagine they sustained some damage.
We are also so thankful there wasn’t a higher number of fatalities than originally expected. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all that have been effected by this tragedy!!
Here’s the latest story on the damage at Orlando’s major attractions. Michael Eisner, by the way, toured WDW on Wednesday and give a big attaboy to all the cast members who helped keep the parks operating.
Planning and a little luck help spare area’s theme parks
By Richard Verrier and Chris Cobbs
Sentinel Staff Writers
August 18, 2004
As bad as Hurricane Charley was, it could have been a whole lot worse for the engines of Central Florida’s tourism economy.
Through a combination of good luck and emergency planning, the area’s theme parks emerged relatively unscathed from the storm that walloped thousands of homes and businesses across Central Florida.
Although industry executives said they were still assessing damage, they described the overall economic impact as relatively short term and minor with most of it confined to fallen trees and storm debris.
“We really should count our blessings,” said Jim Atchison, executive vice president and general manager of SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove. “This storm and the associated damage could have been considerably worse.”
Bo Jones, assistant chief with the Reedy Creek Emergency Services that operates at Walt Disney World, expressed similar relief: “We were very prepared and very fortunate,” Jones said, noting that the tourism corridor was hit by the weaker western edge of Hurricane Charley.
After closing early, most of the local parks reopened within 24 hours of the storm.
With its own underground power system that protected it from outages, Walt Disney World was able to keep three of its four theme parks open.
Disney shut down Animal Kingdom for a day, citing debris and a shortage of employees. The park reopened Sunday.
On Monday, Disney reopened its Typhoon Lagoon water park and Fort Wilderness campground while two Disney golf courses remained closed for previously scheduled maintenance.
And after a steep falloff in attendance on Friday and Saturday, area parks were beginning to see signs that business was returning.
“We’re seeing a rebound, and we expect attendance to soon return to the level it was prior to the storm,” said Tom Schroder, spokesman for Universal Orlando.
What’s more, some of the decline in attendance at the parks has been offset by a surge in hotel occupancy, as local residents without power jammed hotels, said Abe Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at University of Central Florida.
“There will not be a substantial economic impact,” he said.
Beyond good luck, park officials also attributed the minimal damage to rigorous planning that included everything from storing trash cans and large vehicles, to taping windows and lowering water levels in lagoons. At SeaWorld, a “ride out crew” monitored life support systems of the animals during the storm.
Even as they weathered the storm, however, park operators were still struggling to meet staffing needs as employees took time off to clean up storm damage.
At Disney, for example, executives and other staff picked up some of the slack by serving food and collecting trash in the parks.
Disney President Bob Iger and parks and resort chief Jay Rasulo spent the day touring the parks and meeting with employees, expressing their support and gratitude for their efforts to serve guests. Disney chief Michael Eisner also met with employees at the resort and is expected to do so again today.
Disney offered cash assistance and complimentary rooms for employees facing catastrophic hardships. Others who have simply lost power are entitled to a 50 percent discount at Disney hotels.
Employees were also encouraged to help out their colleagues.
“Some of my co-workers offered me jugs of water to use for drinking and bathing because my power was out and I didn’t have any water at home,” said Terry Jardins, a Polk County resident who works at the Magic Kingdom. “I thought that was very generous of them. My power is back now and I feel so much better about coming to work.”
Universal offered similar assistance to its employees, while at SeaWorld workers handed out blankets, clothing and bags of ice to those hardest hit.
In the wake of the storm, Universal Orlando postponed its planned Labor Day weekend singles event, U-Nite Florida, and contract talks between Disney and the union representing 21,000 employees were postponed.
Meanwhile, at Gatorland in Kissimmee, management was grateful that they only had to contend with some damage to boardwalk areas.
Said spokeswoman Michelle Harris: “The alligators, survivors for millions of years, did well.”
I have friends who were there on Sunday, they went to AK and said there were a few trees downed in the park and the river rapid ride as well as others were not consistently operating, kept breaking down. So they went to MGM and said they saw a few more downed trees but everything there was going smoothly.
Thanks Park Hopper for the info. I am glad for that news. My prayers are still with the families who lost so much in the storms.
I wonder if WDW gave the visitors any kind of refund for time lost…