A post on The Disney Blog on Friday reported on the threat that Tropical Storm Fay poses to the Orlando area. In October of 2005, we were on vacation at Walt Disney World when Hurricane Wilma came through Florida. I wrote up a few paragraphs in that blog post’s “comments” section and it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to expand those comments into a full report on that experience. These are based on nearly 3 year old recollections, but hopefully it will still be reasonably accurate.
Most people will likely remember that an unusually large number of strong hurricanes hit the southwestern USA, including Florida, during the Summer and early Fall of 2005. This, of course, included Hurricane Katrina, which so severely devastated New Orleans and other communities in that part of the country. Orlando was in the direct path of a few of these hurricanes and at least suffered some severe weather from most of them. Having family in the Orlando area, we had followed these events very closely, but we generally weren’t giving too much thought to any potential impact on our late-October vacation plans, since major hurricanes that late in the season were previously exceptionally unusual.
It did start to grow into a concern during the last week or so prior to our trip as Tropical Storm Wilma formed and eventually was upgraded into a very strong hurricane. It pretty quickly became apparent that Florida was within its most likely path. Out travel plans had us arriving in Orlando on the evening of Saturday, October 22. Initially, Wilma looked pretty likely to pass through before our trip, but the storm slowed down somewhat and it ended up making landfall on the southern part of Florida very early in the morning of Monday, October 24.
As the timing of the hurricane became more obvious, we did give some consideration about whether to change our travel plans. While we had heard that Disney and the airlines were generally being pretty generous about waving penalties for late changes to reservations due to the hurricanes, we had also heard numerous reports (including first-hand accounts from family) on how WDW had generally fared well during the previous storms of the season. The combination of my work schedule and the typically long lead time needed for most WDW reservations led us to realize that our only likely alternatives to going as planned would be to either cut the trip short by a couple days or cancel it altogether. We ended up deciding to take our chances.
I admit that we did come awfully close to canceling on Friday, though, as our son (just under 2-years-old at the time) woke up that morning with a bad case of pink eye. We did get him in to see his doctor that day, who very helpfully prescribed a liquid antibiotic that required refrigeration, not exactly the best thing when we had a full day of air travel coming up the next day. That problem was solved by a quick trip to the store to buy a soft-side cooler and some Blue Ice, but it still was yet another concern. Late that afternoon when my wife started complaining of a sore throat (typically the first sign of a cold for her), I couldn’t help but wonder if we were seriously tempting fate by planning to continue the trip. Fortunately, neither of their ailments actually turned out to be overly long-lasting or severe (they were both pretty much fine by Sunday), but we didn’t know that at the time and I admit to being something of a nervous wreck by Friday evening.