Walt Disney World Resort Closing Due To Hurricane Ian; Hurricane Warning Issued; Flash Flooding “Very Likely” – Update

UPDATED with latest: The National Weather Service today upgraded its alert for the area in and around Walt Disney World from a Hurricane Watch to a Hurricane Warning. The new designation “means that hurricane conditions are expected over the next 36 hours.”

Hurricane Warnings and Watches for EastCentral Florida - Credit: NOAA
Hurricane Warnings and Watches for EastCentral Florida - Credit: NOAA

NOAA

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The revised alert comes just two hours after Disney officials decided to close the resort on Wednesday and Tuesday. It means that the park’s “Hurricane Exception” now applies for ticketholders.

Per a post on the WDW site:

Partially used multi-day theme park tickets with a validity window impacted by closure due to Hurricane Ian will be automatically extended to allow use of the remaining unused ticket days through September 30, 2023. In order to enter a park, both a park reservation and valid ticket for the same park on the same date is required.

For those with Disney Resort Hotel reservations, the company’s posted policy is as follows:

If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area — or for your place of residence — within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Disney Resort Hotel Package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney. Most room-only and vacation packages can be modified, or cancelled online, including changes to travel dates.

The Weather Channel also reported late today that the prediction of flash flooding in the Orlando area had risen to “Very Likely,” the highest level, for two consecutive days — Thursday and Friday. The channel’s experts termed the designation exceedingly rare.

PREVIOUSLY at 1:50 p.m. PT: Disney announced today that its Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando is closing ahead of Hurricane Ian. The storm’s forecast path shifted slightly overnight to the southeast, which would have it pass just above Orlando, where the park is situated. The resort will be closed Wednesday and Thursday.

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Here is the full statement:

Given the latest projections, the theme parks and water parks will be closed on Wednesday, September 28 and Thursday September 29. Disney Springs will be closed Wednesday, September 28. We anticipate Disney Springs will be closed on Thursday September 29 and we will provide updates as we continue to track the storm. We are monitoring weather conditions so we can make timely decisions for the safety of our Cast and Guests, including when it’s safe for Cast to return to the site to prepare for reopening.

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While the full impact of the storm in Orlando is not expected until Thursday, Seminole County director of the office for emergency management Alan Harris told the Orlando Sentinel that, as Ian is a slow-moving storm, its winds and rain would likely start by Wednesday afternoon and continue until early Friday.

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“Regardless of where the storm goes exactly, this will be a flooding event,” said Harris. “We could see some areas receive up to 15 inches of rain.” Seminole is just northeast of Disney World.

The National Weather Service also warned Orlando and surrounding areas to prepare for “major flooding rain,” winds from 75-110 mph and scattered tornadoes.

Later in the day, the NWS released a new forecast that indicates a high likelihood of flash flooding in the area. See chart below.

Flash flood risk in next three days across Florida - Credit: NOAA
Flash flood risk in next three days across Florida - Credit: NOAA

NOAA

Disney’s move gives out-of-state guests a small window to get on a flight before Orlando International Airport ceases commercial operations at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Some guests may choose to hunker down in local hotels, given the WDW Hurricane cancelations/refunds policy on park tickets only allows compensation if there is a Hurricane Warning issued for the area by the National Weather Service. Currently, the park sits just outside that designation, though the NWS has issued Hurricane Watches “for all inland east central FL counties.”

Hurricane Ian wind forecast as of Tuesday a.m. - Credit: NOAA
Hurricane Ian wind forecast as of Tuesday a.m. - Credit: NOAA

NOAA

If no Hurricane Warning is issued, the Disney World ticketing page indicates that “tickets and packages at Walt Disney World Resort are nontransferable and nonrefundable.” Deadline has reached out to park representatives and will add any relevant comment received.

While the winds are certainly concerning for the park, “major flooding rain” may be worse. Portions of the resort are prone to flooding after even normal precipitation. Recent case in point: Earlier this year, guests posted videos of themselves sloshing through the water as a lazy river ran down Hollywood Boulevard at the resort’s Hollywood Studios park.

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