Friday Irma update: Theme parks announce closures

September 8, 2017, 9:16 AM · Walt Disney World has announced that it will close Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom 7 pm Saturday, but wait until 9pm to close the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Springs. All parks will remain closed on Sunday and Monday.

Universal Orlando Resort announced today that it will close at 7pm on Saturday and remain closed Sunday and Monday due to the expected arrival of Hurricane Irma in Florida.

In addition, SeaWorld Orlando has announced that it will close at 5pm on Saturday and remain closed Sunday and Monday. Legoland Florida will be closed all day Saturday, as well as on Sunday and Monday. Busch Gardens Tampa had announced a 5pm Saturday close, but has changed to being closed all day Saturday, as the Irma forecast tracks west.

From yesterday's update, Walt Disney World has cancelled Saturday's Night of Joy and Sunday's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Universal has cancelled Saturday night's Rock the Universe event. Disney also has announced that the Fort Wilderness Campground will close at 2pm Saturday and that guests are advised to either leave the area or transfer to another Disney resort.

Orlando International Airport will cease all flights at 5pm on Saturday, so you if have a flight scheduled to arrive in or department from Orlando at any time between then and Tuesday morning, you should contact your airline ASAP to ask about alternate arrangements.

Even though Disney's and Universal's theme parks and shopping districts will be closed for the hurricane, their hotels remain open (and already booked to capacity at Universal) so guests will be sheltering in place there. Cast and team members will remain on site to assist guests, though services might be limited.

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, just below the 157 mph threshold for Cat 5. But the storm's reach is expanding, meaning that hurricane-force winds now extend 70 miles from the storm's eye. Irma is expected to be Cat 4 when it hits Florida early Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center's forecast.

Are you in the Orlando area? Check in with us in the comments. We're all wishing the best for you.

More storm coverage on Theme Park Insider:

Replies (19)

September 8, 2017 at 9:42 AM · Looking scary. Has WDW ever been hit by a full-on hurricane like this before? They're talking possible huge damage, glad I no longer live in Jacksonville but prayers for them.
September 8, 2017 at 9:53 AM · I'm in Clermont, due west of Disney. I have my storm shutters up and will be riding it out alone as my partner was sent out ahead of the storm out of state to a class he is teaching. Really worried for friends i know are staying in south Florida.
September 8, 2017 at 11:57 AM · Just updated with the Disney World closure. For the record, among the Orlando parks, SeaWorld announced first, followed by Universal Orlando, then Disney. SeaWorld and Universal made their announcements via all their social media channels, while Disney slow-rolled it to news sites before announcing it to the public.
September 8, 2017 at 12:20 PM · Glad they closed. It is irresponsible of Disney to put their employees in harms way and not allow them time to prepare.
September 8, 2017 at 12:25 PM · I think they were "hit" in 2004 with Charley. They fared pretty well and were open the next day. I think it is very difficult for a full blown hurricane to hit Orlando because it is farther away from the coasts. Hurricanes tend to get very weakened by land. Based on the path, Disney can be in the path, but would experiment something much weaker.

For what it's worth, I was there last year for Hurricane Matthew. We lucked out because it mostly missed Orlando. Disney was extremely accommodating

September 8, 2017 at 1:00 PM · Any idea what they do with the animals (Sea World, Animal Kingdom) during the storm?
September 8, 2017 at 1:25 PM · That's actually a good point, not just on the parks, I do wonder how zoos in places like this handle that. Some places do have plans but that can go awry. A key example would be New Orleans aquarium losing a bunch of animal life when Katrina flooding knocked their power out for a week.

Actually just saw an interview with the manager of the Miami Zoo who says that evacuating animals can be much more dangerous to them and it's better to get them into special shelters and ride it out. Although he adds the irony that often animals can handle storms better than most humans can.

September 8, 2017 at 1:40 PM · Busch Gardens and Adventure Island are now closed Sunday and Monday as well.
September 8, 2017 at 1:41 PM · From SeaWorld: "We have comprehensive weather preparedness plans, and security and zoological staff will remain on property in secure locations as we monitor the storm. We’re also providing support and temporary housing for animals from other zoological facilities in coastal areas expected to have greater impact. Guests are encouraged to check our websites and follow our social media channels for more updates."
September 8, 2017 at 1:52 PM · Depending on the animals, most zoos have secure indoor areas for them. But some may actually fare better outside. For instance, with horses, it's always better to leave them loose in a secure pasture (ideally with some sort of ID painted on them or braided into their manes) than to leave them in a barn where they run the risk of being injured or trapped if the building is damaged.

There's a pretty famous photo that has been making the Facebook rounds this week of a bunch of flamingos at the Miami MetroZoo during Andrew. The staff herded the birds into one of the restrooms :-)

September 8, 2017 at 2:29 PM · They are now forecasting Irma to track further west, which for us in Orlando brings the threat of tornadoes more into the picture. Matthew was well east and so we escaped relatively lightly. Sustained winds of 75-85 with gusts to 95+ ...... so it's going to be a fun time in Orlando Sunday and Monday!!
September 8, 2017 at 3:18 PM · WDW closing two days reflects the seriousness of this hurricane. What's the longest WDW has ever closed for any reason?
September 8, 2017 at 3:22 PM · As far as I know there haven't been any category hurricanes come over Orlando. They always died down to a tropical storm. Those still were able to destroy and the twisters that randomly appear also resulted in places looking like a war has been there.
I hope everyone will be safe but I'm nervous about Disney. Stuff falls from their monorail even without a storm so I wonder how the lack of upkeep survives Irma.
September 8, 2017 at 4:07 PM · Charley was a 2 when it hit us in 2004. Closely followed by Frances, then Jeanne but they were strong TS's by the time they got to Orlando (I think). There were more blue tarps on roofs than roofs without tarps. Charley came thru and caused a huge amount of damage. Those of us who thought we had escaped were ultimately undone by the 2 following tropical storms.
September 8, 2017 at 6:28 PM · On th importance of animal care facilities in a hurricane, the ongoing problem with massive Burmese pythons in the Everglades was a result of a building failure of a breeder during hurricane Andrew. There are now 200-300,000 pythons in Florida and their range is beginning to expand out of the Everglades (Wikipedia: Hurricane Andrew)
September 8, 2017 at 6:39 PM · Here in Jacksonville and a professional photographer who is supposed to do senior portraits at WDW next Friday. We'll see how Disney fares as well as us here at home as our neighborhood is expected to get wind gusts of 110mph.
September 8, 2017 at 9:45 PM · My family came to WDW for a vacation in October 2004 and we saw how some parts of Orlando still had tornado damage and our cab driver telling us how bad it was.
September 8, 2017 at 9:45 PM · My family came to WDW for a vacation in October 2004 and we saw how some parts of Orlando still had tornado damage and our cab driver telling us how bad it was.
September 9, 2017 at 3:12 AM · Will anyone even notice if a Hurricane hits EPCOT? lol

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