Walt Disney World and several other Orlando-area theme parks closed Thursday as Hurricane Ian's impacts were felt across much of Florida, carving out a path of destruction as it continues to move through.
With airports closed and many cities evacuated, Walt Disney World announced that several theme parks would be "temporarily closed" Thursday, one day after the devastating storm made landfall on the Gulf Coast. They include:
- Magic Kingdom Park
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park (Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park is currently closed for the season.)
- Winter Summerland Miniature Golf
- Fantasia Gardens
- Fairways Miniature Golf
According to the park, people who had multi-day tickets impacted by the closure will be able to use their remaining passes for the next year, through Sept. 30, 2023.
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For those who had hotel stays, the resort said check-in would not be accepted Thursday and those with Friday check-ins should arrive no earlier than 3 p.m. ET.
"Guests may reschedule their trip or cancel their stay with us; any customary cancellation fees will be waived," the resort's website stated.
For those already at hotels, notices would be given if a shelter in place was necessary at their resort.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort were temporarily closed through Friday, Sept. 30 due to the weather. The resort said guests with reservations impacted by the closure would be contacted.
Disney World wasn't alone in closing, as several other Orlando-area theme parks also announced closures.
Busch Gardens in Tampa closed ahead of the storm, while SeaWorld also planned to close Thursday.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, and Discovery Cove parks enacted their "Named Storm Policy" leading to a temporary closure through Thursday.
"Precautions are in place following the parks’ comprehensive weather preparedness plan to ensure the safety of our animals and ambassadors during this time," the parks stated on their website.
Discovery Cove planned to reschedule or refund reservations with no cancellation or change fees. Those who booked on third-party sites will be allowed to rebook their visits, but refunds would need to come from the sellers.
Any tickets for Sept. 27-29 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, or Sept. 28-29 for the other locations, will be extended through Dec. 31, the parks said. Annual pass members whos tickets expire Sept. 30 or Oct. 2 will now be extended through Oct. 16.
One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States threatened catastrophic flooding around the state. Ian's tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 415 miles, drenching much of Florida and the southeastern Atlantic coast.
The National Hurricane Center said Ian became a tropical storm over land early Thursday and was expected to regain near-hurricane strength after emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day. Ian was forecast to move out of Florida on Thursday and travel north before hitting South Carolina on Friday for a second U.S. landfall.
In the Orlando area, Orange County firefighters used boats to reach people in a flooded neighborhood. A photo the department posted on Twitter showed one firefighter carrying someone in his arms through knee-deep water. At an area nursing home surrounded by water, patients were carried on stretchers across floodwaters to a waiting bus.