Amusement Parks: Summer Fun
by Becky Kellogg and Jess Baker
Nothing says summer like pools, sunshine, and roller coasters! With schools letting out for summer, amusement parks are kicking into high gear. Visiting your local amusement park is almost an annual ritual for many families. Did you know that the weather could be your best friend, or worst enemy, when it comes to your day at the amusement park?
Rain, heat and cold are all factors that roller coaster engineers study when they build their thrill rides. Those weather factors play a huge role in your ride.
We talked to Great Coasters International, a company based in Pennsylvania that studies and designs roller coasters. They gave us a quick rundown of how some weather factors affect roller coasters: Wind
-Built to withstand hurricane-force winds in hurricane prone areas
-Built so that it will fall to the side (as opposed to forward or backward) Warm Temps
-Ideal for a fast ride
-Grease warms and makes coaster move faster
-Quick drop and an exciting trip uphill Cold Temps
-Makes grease thicker
-Makes the ride slower
Another tip: look for long lines!
The more full a coaster is, the faster it will go on the long drops. Keeping You Safe From Bad Weather
Amusement parks have to keep tens of thousands of people safe from weather emergencies every day. To do so, many of them have top notch meteorology equipment and staff to track the weather concerns.
The National Weather Service has several amusement parks across the nation that qualify for its Stormready certification. That means they're equipped to monitor the latest weather patterns and react quickly to keep their visitors safe.
Hersheypark, in Hershey, Pa., is one of those parks. It has a storm center wtih computers and staff that track real-time weather conditions from the National Weather Service. If weather threatens the park, it has a plan to evacuate visitors from all rides.
Lightning and wind provide the biggest threats. If lightning is detected from 20 miles away, the park begins its ride evacuation plans. Water attractions are evacuated first. By the time a storm is 10 miles out, park staff are getting people off roller coasters.
Disney World and SeaWorld in Orlando are also both Stormready, according to the National Weather service.
“Disney’s weather operations are first-class and incredibly impressive,” says National Weather Service Warning Coordinator Meteorologist Scott Spratt, who evaluated Walt Disney World’s emergency readiness.
Several Six Flags theme parks also have Stormready status, including ones in Texas, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
See if your favorite park or community has stormready
status before you visit.
In the meantime, we're going to highlight a handful of unique and interesting theme parks across the country. (Note: Some of these parks have stormready status and others don't.)