Disney Parks close their gates as Hurricane Matthew heads towards Orlando

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Hurricane Matthew is steadily approaching Central Florida as a Category Four with winds that may go beyond 145 mph when it hits the coasts. It’s no joke, and the attractions of Central Florida are taking the situation very seriously.

Disney Parks is closing their theme parks, their water parks, their shopping district, their golf courses, and their sports complex later today at 5pm to encourage guests to stay indoors and be safe. All of these locations will remain closed throughout Friday, although operations are expected to resume on Saturday, October 8th. Additionally, their Halloween event, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, has been canceled for tonight.

This is only the fourth time since opening day that Disney has closed its doors–three times in anticipation of hurricanes. The first was on Sept. 15, 1999 for Hurricane Floyd. The next closure followed in September of 2004 for two days for Hurricane Frances. Right on the heels of Frances, Disney closed their doors again on September 26, 2004 for Hurricane Jeanne. And while not due to a hurricane, the park was evacuated on 9/11.

For Hurricane Matthew, Disney has already evacuated their Fort Wilderness campground, the bungalows on their Polynesian Village property and the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort. These guests have been moved to alternate accommodations by Disney as a safety measure.

Their Orlando properties are not the only ones that Disney is closing. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and their Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina have also been closed due to Hurricane Matthew with the Vero Beach property being evacuated as of 11am this morning.

It’s incredibly rare for the parks to close their doors to guests, but this speaks to the serious nature of the approaching storm. Some news outlets are reporting that when Hurricane Matthew hits the coasts, the damage will be of catastrophic proportions (possibly exceeding even that of Katrina and Sandy). The National Weather Service states that we should expect widespread outages and winds that exceed the hurricanes of 2004 that will launch debris capable of breaching structures. With this potentially being the worst storm Florida has seen in 118 years, these park closures are completely in line with what is in the best interests of their guests.

Photo Credit: Only WDW World


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    Hurricane Jeanne was in 2004 not 1999.

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      JeniLynn Knopp

      Yes, thank you for catching that. I missed it in the editing when I changed the course of my paragraph. Much appreciated! Good eye!

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    Hurricane Jeanne was the third hurricane to hit Florida in 2004, not 1999.
    Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear, NC in 1999. It also couldn’t have come after Jeanne to close the parks in 1999 because F comes before J alphabetically. Hurricane Jose that year didn’t hit the United States.

    It was closed for Floyd in 1999 for one day. It closed for September 11, 2001. It also closed for Frances and Jeanne in 2004. This is the fourth hurricane to elicit closure of the parks.

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      JeniLynn Knopp

      Thank you so much for the help!

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    So sad for the Vero Beach Resort. We were there about 10 days ago. Wonderful place with fantastic staff. We had a great time. Glad everyone is evacuating and it’s the end of the seas turtle season. Be safe out there!

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    They also closed when I was there for hurricane Wilma in 05′ the storm passed through the night and early in the morning and then they reopened that night but they did close the parks until they could reopen.

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    I’m up north dealing with six days of rain, had to book a Disney Cruise, and the agent told me she was already up to her neck in travelers stranded from Port Canaveral’s closing–
    Hang in there, wacky Florida people. You knew what you were in for when you moved down there, but not THIS.

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      V's Mom

      Some of us were born here tho….

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    Jonathan Shroyer

    Curious question, with the parks closed and Cast Members not reporting to work, what’s happening to the hotels?

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      The resort as a whole has a ride out crew. Cast members are assigned to stay behind and help out where they can! These cm have already been told to stay on the job till the storm passes (hence ride out) to keep people safe and make sure the parks are ready to reopen.
      There has already been a curfew posted for guests must be in by 6pm and no one is to leave for saftey reasons (I think that’s the Orlando area as a whole not just wdw but I could be wrong).

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    They also closed in 2004 for Hurricane Charlie, my family and I were there staying at Pop Century which had just opened that year.

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      Yes, it is true that they closed for a half day for Charlie. We were meaning closures for a full day (aside from the evacuation of 9/11), but you are absolutely right.

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      We were there at the Polynesian during Charley in 2004. The cast members made it a fun time for the kids and adults. They had someone teaching a dance , coloring for the kids, character meets in the hotel. Food was available until a certain time and then we had to shelter in our rooms. We had a room directly across the lake from the castle. It was interesting to watch as the storm intensity grew – after a while we could no longer see the castle. The next morning when we went for a look around the hotel, it appeared that not too much damage was done but the crews were out bright and early to clear up any damage and start repairs. We were lucky – one of the trees blew over and landed right next to our car but missed it. All in all, it was a fun experience due to the efforts of the Walt Disney staff.

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    Thank you very much for closing. My son is a cast member and I was so nervous that he would not be home to be with his family through the storm. GREAT CALL DISNEY!!

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      I hope your son and family stay safe.

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    What happens to guests while on vacation during closings?Park tickets refunded etc?

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      No, park tickets are generally not refunded, since they will remain unused on the day the parks are closed and can be used on a later date. If you will not need the extra day’s ticket, Disney will usually allow you to use the monetary value of the unneeded ticket for something else (food, merchandise, etc.).

      Given that most guests have multi-day passes, the difference in value between, say, a six-day and seven-day pass is only something like $12, so removing one day from a multi-day pass would not end up being a very large amount of money.

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    We spent some time at the Hilton Head resort earlier this year and loved it. I hope it does not get damaged. And I hope everyone in Florida stays safe!

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    I’m going to disney in December, i hope everything will be back to normal by then, I feel so bad for anyone loosing park time!

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    My grandson is there at the moment under curfew.The thing l think is bad is Disney charging $13 for snack boxes to take to your room.They did take a flashlight to every room but l think they could have taken at leat some water at the same time

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    Hi bad weather clean sun weather hurricane done stop weather please ok my name abraham Guzman Marlborough 43 tavitian blvd

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    Dave Belk

    I expect to come back to WDW in early January 2017 for my 50th belated birthday.I want it to be real special & hope to get a good table at the Crystal Palace Restaurant for one of the best breakfast buffets in the whole park.Meet the Winnie The Pooh characters & others including Mickey Mouse.Just hope nothin’ major will be torn to pieces when I arrive there.I expect to ride other rides including my personal favorite:WDW Railroad.Am a highly passioned veteran railfan & student train engineer.Even hope that WDW favored through Hurricane Matthew.I wish it good luck.

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    Does anyone know if there was damage done to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort? I have reservations there on October 26th???

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