Walt Disney World in Orlando (technically, Lake Buena Vista) will close at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time today, and the theme parks will stay closed through Friday due to the threat posed by Hurricane Matthew, The Orlando Sentinel is reporting. Disney officials have not, as of this writing, made any decision about whether or not to reopen on Saturday.
The closure affects all four theme parks (The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), as well as the resort’s water parks, the Disney Springs shopping and dining area, the resort’s miniature golf courses, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
A planned after-hours, special ticket event, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, has been canceled.
Similarly, some Disney resort guests whose accommodations may not be able to withstand Matthew’s wrath are being moved to safety. At Fort Wilderness campground, where the majority of guests are staying in tents, campers, or RV’s, cast members are helping to move the guests to safer rooms. At the Saratoga Springs treehouse villas, which are in a densely-wooded area and are all but guaranteed to be impassable once Matthew’s winds blow through, guests are being relocated. And at the Polynesian resort’s Village Bungalows, which are built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon, guests are being evacuated into the main resort.
And by the way, despite the urban legend that you may have heard, Cinderella Castle, the 189-foot-tall focal point of The Magic Kingdom, cannot be dismantled in case of a hurricane. Since the resort opened in 1971, Cinderella Castle has not ever been dismantled, nor will it ever be, according to the Disney Fanatic Blog.
Disney World is the last major Orlando-area theme park to announce closures over Hurricane Matthew. Officials at Sea World and Universal Orlando announced plans to close early today and remain closed through Friday.
As CNBC notes, in its 45-year history, prior to today, Walt Disney World has only closed four times, and three of those times were for hurricanes. The resort closed on Sept. 15, 1999, for Hurricane Floyd; Sept. 4 and 5, 1999, for Hurricane Frances; and Sept. 26, 2004, for Hurricane Jeanne. Walt Disney World’s only non-hurricane-related closure took place following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Walt Disney World has been hit by a hurricane before, although the damage was comparatively minimal. According to the Disney Fanatic Blog, the Orlando area got the worst of Hurricane Charley in 2004, and Walt Disney World wasn’t spared. Across the property, trees were downed, and a couple of buildings suffered some structural damage, but in general, the resort got off light.
Oddly enough, Walt Disney World did not close for Hurricane Charley. All Ears writer “Anita Answer” was there with her family at the time. She describes how quickly and efficiently Disney officials got things up and running once the storm had passed.
“Under the circumstances, Disney CM’s did an incredible job of keeping order and keeping us informed and safe. They had a plan and they carried it out. We never lost power or water, so we were a lot more fortunate than most people in the area. Getting the roads cleared and the parks open in under nine hours must have been an Herculean task. I have nothing but praise for all the CMs who stayed on storm duty and helped keep us all safe and secure, and those that had clean up duty after the storm passed. If I ever have to endure another tropical storm or hurricane, I’d do it again at Walt Disney World in a heartbeat.”
Hurricane Matthew is expected to hit the Orlando area, including Walt Disney World, on Thursday night into Friday morning.
[Featured Image by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images]