Hersheypark storm center keeps guests safe in stormy weather

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Known as the storm center, one side of a room at Hersheypark is lined with TV monitors that stream live views of activity at key locations in the park. Across the room, a bank of computer monitors track real-time weather conditions provided by the National Weather Service and continously displayed through a 360-degree arc extending hours from Hershey in all directions.

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After storm-related accidents such as the one at Kennywood several years ago, you'd think that weather training would be industry-standard by now.

The rule of thumb is that if you can hear thunder, you're close enough to the storm to get struck by lightning. (There have even been cases where people have gotten hit when they had no indication that a storm was nearby.) In my opinion, parks seem to be gambling on the distance a storm can approach before they close attractions. A few years ago I was riding the ferris wheel at Cedar Point watching lightning strike the ground just on the other side of the causeway. My ride was the last one before they shut down, but it was still too close for comfort.

Last edited by PhantomTails,

They sort of fail to mention what they are going to do with 60,000 people in the event of a real severe storm... Walt Disney World, with it's hurricane strength buildings actually has a good shot at protecting it's guests.. but what will Hershey Park do with there's? (Haven't been, don't know)

Imagine getting stuck on the lift hill on a roller coaster like MF, and then a lightning storm comes. I'm praying that that day never happens.

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6.STR@SFNE 7.Voyage 8.X2 9.Storm Chaser 10. Wicked Cyclone

kpjb's avatar

I'd totally film that and put it on youtube. :)


Rokuchan's avatar

CP does seem to have pretty lax rules in regard to the weather. About two years back I was there riding demon drop at night, and a storm was rolling in. They weren't shutting anything down because they were 'too close to closing so why bother' as one ride op put it. I watched lightning get closer and closer as we rode demon drop three times. It did make me wonder why they weren't just shutting it down.

SFGaM was pretty good about shutting things down when I was back in Chicago. Then again I've seen some NASTY stuff roll through there while I was at the park. Yay for Chicago weather.

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kpjb's avatar

Makes me wonder why you'd ride it if you thought it should be shut down.


That's just sad. Back in 70's, they subscribed to a weather service. When they got word of the possiblity of a storm blowing in they contact all the ride forepersons of the affected attractions to be ready to shut down. One of the ops supervisors would go up in the Sky Tower with binoculars. With the first sight of the front the order would go out to shut down the hign rides. Of course in those days there were only four coasters, the Giant Wheel and the Sky Tower. Everything else would stay open.

Last edited by Dutchman,

What is really remarkable is how the internet and radar availability has changed storm prediction for park operators over the past 10 years. When I entered the industry in 1991, storm prediction consisted of sending someone outside every time a dark cloud approached to look for lightning and thunder. It wasnt until around the turn of the century when real time radar data was readily available over the internet, and today, we all know there are dozens of weather websites that allow anyone with an IQ over 6 to look at a radar loop to see when the big one is coming...

At my park, it is quite comical to walk around offices on days that storms are forecasted and just about every manager has a radar loop pulled up on their computer screen. And it almost becomes a contest between managers as to whom can better predict the path of an approaching storm. For a bunch of amusement park managers, you would think we all had PhD's in meteorology the way we all talk on stormy days!

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging,
Jeff's avatar

Rokuchan said:
CP does seem to have pretty lax rules in regard to the weather.

That might be your perception, but I think that's far from how they roll. Keep in mind that being by the lake there with the bay and what not that visibility goes a very long way. They have a lightning detection thingy there, and I believe their protocol is when lightning breaches a certain radius, they shut stuff down (much in the way Hershey does).

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

crazy horse's avatar

I think the detection system they have is called "thor".

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong you would be fine in a steel coaster car on the lift in a storm. Those polyethylene wheels do not conduct electricity, lightning always seeks the ground, with those wheels below you lighting is not going to strike you as it has no way to get from you to the ground.

Wood coaster car, that's a different story. But I still believe you would be safe provided you were not the point lightning entered the system (ie the one who was actually struck) as you are "out of the way" of the main route to the ground. Much less certain on that one.

Gemini's avatar

I wrote a paper during my senior year at Penn State outlining the formation of a Weather Operations department at Cedar Point. It was a little over-the-top, but it couldn't have been a better topic for a meteorology major and Cedar Point fan. :)

Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz

Raven-Phile's avatar

I was at CP one time waiting in line for Gemini when they closed it due to lightning. The lightning was still a decent way off, but it was close enough to feel a storm brewing. There happened to be a gentleman on the platform who was wearing a blue, satin jacket with patches on it, who was not happy.

He began screaming that he had traveled X amount of miles, and this was his only visit for the year, and he had mapped out which coasters to ride at which time, and the lightning was still far enough off that "there's time for me to get my ride in!". I guess he was some kind of meteorologist, as one of his patches said he was a "Lightning Racer". :)

In any case, he wound up storming off to guest services over it. :-|

^ Storming off. LOL
I wonder what precipitated that?

Raven-Phile's avatar

I'm not positive, but when he left the station, I remember there being thunderous applause.

He was probably a-front-ed by that.

It's like a golden shower of puns around here....

My author website: mgrantroberts.com

LostKause's avatar

Did you have to put "golden" in there? lol

Icy this thread put on ice very soon, and that's snow joke.

Just trying to sprinkle some extra levity into the conversation.

My author website: mgrantroberts.com

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