Though Walt Disney World may feel like a magical place far from reality, unfortunately, when central Florida gets hit with severe weather, the resort has to act. Generally, this means being prepared for thunderstorms, tornadoes, and of course, hurricanes.
However, there is a lesser-known weather condition that has begun affecting operations at the resort that visitors might not immediately know is even happening: drought. And while the effects currently being felt around the resort are relatively minor, there could be some big changes on the horizon if Central Florida doesn't get some substantial rainfall soon.
Drought, Walt Disney World, and the current Central Florida burn ban
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando has only gotten two inches of rain since the new year and is currently in its second driest stretch from Jan. 1 to April 5 since the late 1800s. The Drought Monitor also shows 55 percent of Florida is under severe drought now, up from 20 percent at the start of this year and less than 1 percent last year at this time. Combine the dry conditions with the state's record temperatures in the 90s, and you've got what could be a very dangerous situation at theme parks.
Currently, the resort, as well as the larger Orange, Osceola, and other surrounding counties, are under an open flame burn ban. This means that guests are prohibited from using sparklers, firepits, or grills on Disney property, even those that are connected to their resort. All activities involving an open flame have also been immediately modified to not include fire as well.
This mostly affects the Fort Wilderness campground, where all campsites have a firepit area as well as outdoor grills. However, other resorts like Disney's Polynesian Village Resort that have fire pit areas have also been affected by the burn ban. And while the slight modification of activities may not affect guests too much in the short term, further changes could be made in the near future if central Florida doesn't get some rain soon.
Walt Disney World has modified its fireworks shows in the past due to drought conditions
Just as fireworks shows are modified when there are severe weather conditions like rain, lightning, or wind, Disney can also modify fireworks shows due to drought conditions. In 2017, which was another dry year in Central Florida, Disney changed the sizes of types of fireworks it used in its parks in an effort to help mitigate the risk of nearby brush fires.
This move was met with some criticism at the time, as firefighter union representatives said that they needed to keep watch for long hours to ensure that there were no fires. Firefighters also encouraged Disney to clear out brush and install sprinklers in wooded areas to help further decrease fire risk.
Some even said that Disney continuing their nightly fireworks show was a violation of the larger burn ban (which was similar to the one in effect now). However, according to WFTV, fireworks displays are specifically exempt from the burn ban, as long as the correct permits have been filed.
Though there were some reported flare-ups that year which resulted in outside help being needed to quell fires on Disney property in 2017, the drought period that year largely passed without incident, and no fireworks were canceled due to dry conditions. However, that could change in 2023, especially if this historic drought last for much longer.