Tropical Storm Elsa is now Hurricane Elsa, but its future remains quite uncertain. Bottom line up front: it’s still too early to know if the storm will hit Florida, where it would hit the state (if it did), exactly when it would hit (if it did), and how strong it would be when it did (if it did). That picture should become a bit clearer over the few days after we see how the storm interacts with Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Cuba. For those in the Attractions Area and elsewhere in Florida, it will be important to monitor the storm’s progress until the Florida situation is better defined.
Forecast models continue to wildly disagree. As of this writing, the GFS model puts the storm offshore from Saint Petersburg, FL on Tuesday … the HMON has it near Fort Myers … CMC puts it off Port Canaveral (the other side of the state!) … and the EURO has it completely dissolved before it even gets here. The NHC is also underscoring the uncertainty in its latest forecast discussion…
It should be noted that the average NHC track errors are 175 miles and 200 miles at days 4 and 5, respectively. Given the larger-than-normal uncertainty and because hazards will extend well away from the center of the storm, users are urged to not focus on the exact forecast points.
The local attractions are no doubt brushing off their storm plans as we all Wait and See™ what happens with the storm. As the always-fascinating Thrill Data rightly points out, even the threat of a hurricane can impact attendance and wait times at the parks. Below is a chart they posted recently showing Magic Kingdom wait times in September 2019 as Dorian loomed offshore for what seemed like forever.
Of course now, with a new theme park reservation system, COVID-related travel patterns, and a holiday weekend in the mix, it’s hard to quantify, much less predict, the impacts of a potential storm on park operations.
For now, the official forecast has the storm crossing the Florida peninsula Tuesday-Wednesday as a tropical storm. And yes, that can change. Keep calm and carry on!