Snow and extreme cold temperatures can cause a lot of damage at amusement parks. This is one of the reasons why most parks are closed during the fall and winter months. They are closed not because there aren’t enough visitors, but rather because they cannot guarantee that all the rides will function properly while being exposed to heavy snow and cold temperatures.
Unless they are in an indoor amusement park, roller coasters and other rides are exposed to all weather conditions. Light snow fall might not have much impact, but heavy snow will accumulate in different sections of the ride weighing down the structure. During the day, it may be warm enough for some of the snow to melt, but at night the temperatures drop dramatically causing this partially melted snow to freeze.
High snow accumulation means that the process of melting and freezing keeps going on for several days, or maybe even weeks. Wooden structures are particularly vulnerable because water from melted snow that gets into all the cracks and creases freezes at night causing wood to expand. Granted, wooden roller coasters aren’t made of cheap wood. The wood is treated with chemicals and then sealed with waterproof sealant. However, prolonged exposure to snow will weaken the structure, eventually. Steel coasters may be more weather-resistant, but they are not completely immune.
If you live near an amusement park, you may have noticed that in the spring, before the season starts, all the rides are being checked over and over again. And even after the park opens, there may be rides that are closed either temporarily, or for the entire season. It’s not always snow or cold weather why some rides are out of order, but oftentimes that’s the case.
Roller coasters aren’t the only structures impacted by snow. Collapsed roofs of the amusement park buildings, broken statues and other decorative architectural structures, broken tree branches (and sometimes even the whole trees), pot holes in roads, and sidewalks throughout the park, all are the results of heavy snow impact. Heavy snow might even cause fire at an amusement park, like the one in Adventureland park in Altoona, Iowa where the roof of a building collapsed under the weight of snow tearing down electrical wiring, which started fire.
Possibly the worst damages at amusement parks are caused by flash floods. Flash floods usually happen in the mountainous terrain, where melting snow combined with heavy rain comes cascading off the mountains and washes down trees, bushes, and even buildings. Even if the park itself did not get much snowfall, snow accumulation in the nearby mountains could mean bad news for the park in the spring. All amusement parks that are affected by even the smallest flash floods have to be diligently checked for structure and foundation damages.
A few snowflakes is not going to have much impact on an amusement park. Sometimes, it snows even at Disney World, Florida. Snow is fun and many parks create artificial snow for special effects. However, an accumulation of heavy snow can cause a lot of damage and result in much more repair work than just regular maintenance.