Orlando-area parks and visitors prepare for Hurricane Matthew

October 4, 2016, 11:29 AM · If you're visiting the Orlando area theme parks this week, get ready to welcome another special guest during your stay — Hurricane Matthew.

Wednesday morning update: The Orlando area is now under a hurricane warning, with the eye of the storm expected to brush the shore near Cape Canaveral sometime Friday morning. Matthew weakened as it passed over eastern Cuba and is now a Category 3 storm, but it is expected to strengthen as it passes through the Bahamas today and tomorrow.

Earlier this year, we posted Everything you need to know about Disney World and hurricanes, with our advice for how to handle being at Disney World, Universal Orlando, or other area attractions when a storm hits — as well as how to get out of your trip, if you'd rather do that. Both Disney and Universal allow visitors to cancel or reschedule their vacations without change fees if there is a hurricane warning issued for the Orlando area, which now is the case.

Visitors should expect high winds — possibly hurricane force — and heavy rain as the storm moves through the theme park area on Friday. We expect airlines soon to begin canceling flights in the southeast on Thursday through the weekend, so if your travel plans include a flight in Florida, Georgia, or the Carolinas over the next four days, check with your airline and be prepared for flight cancellations.

All schools in Central Florida have canceled classes for Thursday and Friday, and colleges are canceling and rescheduling games this weekend — including UCF, which has postponed its scheduled Friday night game in Orlando. We've not yet heard about park closures at Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando but Disney is offering to move guests out of the Fort Wilderness campground, Polynesian bungalows and Saratoga Springs Treehouse villas, which are the most exposed lodging properties at the resort. Reports also have SeaWorld Orlando closing at 2pm Thursday and all day Friday. Legoland Florida will be closed on Friday. (Update: We have a complete list of Hurricane Matthew closures, including Disney and Universal, in our Thursday story.)

If you're stuck in the area, you'll probably want to join the crowds at local supermarkets if you need to stock up on food and water to get you through the weekend. The theme park hotels will do their best to maintain critical operations during the storm — including at least limited food service — but remember that the staff will be a ride-out crew if the storm's too intense for regularly scheduled staff to get to work.

If your personal or rental car is going to be parked outside during the storm, go take photos of it now, as those photos will help in any insurance claim if the storm damages the car.

Theme park fans around the world send their best wishes to everyone in Central Florida right now. We hope that Matthew will keep to the east and that everyone will get to enjoy a safe day in the parks, as unusual and weird as it might turn out to be. We also hope that you'll stay in touch with us throughout this week, as best you can.

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Replies (21)

October 4, 2016 at 1:48 PM · If you are in a Fort Wilderness cabin ordered to evacuate for the storm, don't let Disney stick you in a remote All Star Sports/Music room billed at the same rate as the cabin with zero accessible food service. Check out.
October 4, 2016 at 3:07 PM · I wouldn't plan to be here Thursday and Friday , Sheriff could barricade the streets to the parks , the winds cause a lot of debree . the power could go off to your hotel . and spoil your fun . Bummer stuck here . Check and see to get a flight before or if they close the airport. From been there done that , Good luck ,friends .
October 4, 2016 at 3:12 PM · I think Checking out would be an even worse idea. Then you're stuck in the fleeing crowd with nowhere to go.
October 4, 2016 at 3:52 PM · Grab your poncho and enjoy touring the nearly empty parks!
October 4, 2016 at 4:28 PM · flying in from DC thursday afternoon....
October 4, 2016 at 4:29 PM · My only concern is park closures... Updates?!?
October 4, 2016 at 5:08 PM · If you were flying in tomorrow, arrival 11:30 p.m. Would you go?
October 4, 2016 at 5:50 PM · I live in the Tampa area. Many who live along the coasts in Central Florida flee to Orlando when they are under a mandatory evacuation order. A local (good) TV meteorologist tonight had a Facebook live chat and said Thursday into early Friday will not be a good time to visit the Orlando theme parks. He said he was especially concerned along the East Coast of Florida from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville. Those areas, he said, could see hurricane force winds of 100+ mph.

- Brian From Florida

October 4, 2016 at 5:54 PM · Yes yes! My family and I enjoyed all 4 parks during Gustav!!
October 4, 2016 at 6:17 PM · we're scheduled to fly down early thursday am. what are the chances the park closes thurs/ and friday?
October 4, 2016 at 9:10 PM · Back in 1988, my family and I were at Disney World when Hurricane Keith struck. Right as Illuminations was coming down, the skies opened up and while we had coats and such, we were still soaked in minutes. A pretty wild time as folks were leaving orderly but still racing as much as possible to get into cover and a pretty wild ending to the day.
October 5, 2016 at 5:30 AM · Thursday night we are scheduled to leave Denver (fly) and arrive in Orlando at 5:00am friday. This is exactly the time Matthew is scheduled to arrive. Darn the luck.
October 5, 2016 at 10:57 AM · I'm skeptical of weather forecasts due to a recent experience. I was going to visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Labor Day weekend but b/c the weather forecast called for 7 hours of rain with wind gusts up to 57 mph plus a hurricane and flooding warning,on one day's notice I cancelled my flight and hotel - unnecessarily, it turned out, as none of this ever happened. I'm just glad that I booked through Expedia rather than the airline, as Expedia issued a full refund.
October 5, 2016 at 1:17 PM · This one is for real. There is a very high chance any flights for Thursday evening into Friday afternoon will be canceled.
October 5, 2016 at 1:31 PM · Well the rush is on. I've heard reports of Walmart's and Publix supermarkets in the area that have run out of water and batteries and am very glad I got my 2 cases of bottled water at 8am today. People were literally grabbing water off the pallets as the employees were trying to unload them and there were no flashlights left.

Believe it or not, I am talking to people who are arguing with me that the water parks etc have to be open, they want to go.

*waiting for the flying Mickey's down Buena Vista Drive*

October 5, 2016 at 3:18 PM · All I can say to everyone is keep safe, remember that there is always another park day, stay safe.
October 5, 2016 at 4:22 PM · Just announced: Water parks will be closed.
October 5, 2016 at 5:30 PM ·
October 5, 2016 at 8:13 PM · Just announced on the App, Mickey's Not so Scary Haloween Party is cancelled for Thursday night.
October 5, 2016 at 8:16 PM · Just announced on the App, Mickey's Not so Scary Haloween Party is cancelled for Thursday night.
October 6, 2016 at 12:53 PM · We're arriving Sunday. Do you folks think it'll be anything worse than rain by that point?

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