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'StormReady' Amusement Parks Put Visitors' Safety First

Warmer weather and sunnier skies offer seasonal ways to celebrate the summer, including the family-favorite amusement park. However, unsettled weather can hit at any time and interrupt outdoor plans.

Especially when spending extended time in large, uncovered areas, the risk factor increases. Popular amusement parks assure their guests of being organized and on stand-by for potential severe weather to strike.

As the Director of Safety and Security at the Hersheypark Entertainment Complex in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Jason White stresses that guest safety is the top priority.

"We are continuously monitoring wind speeds, temperatures and storm conditions to ensure that we are acting ahead of any known weather concerns. Once weather concerns are identified, we will implement the necessary course of action," he said.

White explained that there is constant monitoring of weather conditions while the venues are in operation. Once potentially threatening weather develops, they put a detailed plan into action, including systematically closing rides.

"Once lightning is detected 20 miles from the Complex, we begin to shut down our water attractions. At 10 miles, we stop running the roller coasters. We continue to close attractions as the storm approaches," he said.

After storms pass, they follow the same procedures when reopening the rides. Though guests may become frustrated if their favorite ride is closed, staying safe is the most critical part of keeping any summer day fun.

According to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Mark Paquette, lightning threats are not something to ignore, no matter what the conditions appear to be overhead.

"If there is a threat for lightning, pay close heed to it. Lightning can strike someone from miles away [from a visible thunderstorm cloud]," he said.

When in a large, open area, the best thing to do is get indoors or at minimum under a roof enclosure. Following timely instructions from park officials is the best way to guarantee safety.

Along with Hersheypark, Cedar Point, an amusement park in northern Ohio, is a National Weather Service certified "StormReady" site. The is designation given to communities and commercial venues that meet an extensive set of criteria to be prepared for all weather situations.

"The StormReady certification demonstrates Cedar Point's commitment to providing our guests and employees with advanced severe weather warnings," Ken Berryhill, director of safety at Cedar Point said in a press release. "Families here should be able to enjoy the park and not have to worry about the weather."

In compliance with the program, Cedar Point has more than 40 public storm shelters within the park. To stay current with weather threats, the park monitors weather through government and commercial radars and distributed weather alert radios to employees throughout the park.

Other than storms, weather concerns that are often under-stressed are staying safe in sunlight and high temperatures.

"We do encourage all of our guests to use, and repeatedly apply, sunscreen throughout their day inside Hersheypark," White said.

Those spending extended amounts of time in the sun should take precaution. It only takes about 15 minutes for the sun's UV rays to damage unprotected skin, according to the Center for Disease Control.