Todd's Weather at Work: Dollywood

10:28 PM, Nov 8, 2011   |    comments
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The forecast impacts all of us in East Tennessee, but the weather can also dramatically influence what more than 3 million people see and do when they visit the region we call home. 

We all know Dollywood. From the rides to the music, shows and characters, but the weather can make or break all of those things.

"At Dollywood, safety is our number one concern, so at any time that there are folks in the park, we're always looking to make sure - that whatever happens with the weather doesn't affect the day," said Dollywood Spokesperson Pete Owens.

Inside Dollywood's Central Dispatch which is hidden away inside Paul's Music Shop in the Jukebox Junction Section of the park is where those at the park monitor the weather. 

As Director of Safety and Security, Robbie Fox, crafts a forecast for the park everyday. He calls it Fox's Forecast" and it goes out to the entire staff through e-mail. "We're informing people of what, of the weather forecast - something they can rely on that day," said Fox. "And then at the end, I put have a Dollywood day." 

Initially, Fox gets his weather information the same way most of us do. "Getting up early in the morning, looking at the weather reports from the various TV stations and whatever information we can find off the internet then we start planning our day," explained Fox. 

However, when you are dealing with 3 million guests a year, a regional forecast won't always cut it. 

"If we get a major storm than we obviously start relying on our weather system we subscribe to the accu-weather smart rad system," said Fox. 

The equipment monitors weather round the clock focusing in on Dollywood, Splash Country and the area surrounding it. The also have sensors that constantly record conditions at rides, like the mystery mine. 

Dollywood has three plans of action for which rides they will shut down during severe weather. 

For Plan A, officials will shut down the tallest rides such as the roller coasters which are six and even seven stories high. Those rides are easy targets for lightning. 

Plan B shuts down all the rides with the exception of the carousel, the imagination cinema and the blazing fury because they are all under roof and enclosed. 

Plan C happens when it snows and the park shuts down completely. The rides just aren't made for near freezing temperatures. 

"We cannot run some of the rides below 40 degrees because of the viscosity of the fluids and the wheels --  they don't run well if it's colder than that," said Fox. 

Plus it is not exactly safe for guests. The bottom line is Dollywood is an iconic attraction loved by locals and tourists from across the country and around the world. So Fox and park officials said they will use all their resources and tools to track the weather. 

That way guests can enjoy all those things that make Dollywood so popular. Before joining Dollywood, Fox served for years as Chief of Police at the Sevierville Police Department.

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