The Walt Disney World resort announced on Twitter earlier today that it will be closing all theme parks, water parks, golf courses, Disney Springs and the ESPN sports complex for hurricane Matthew’s arrival.
The closure comes as President Obama declared a state of emergency in 28 Florida counties. Local Governments ordered coastal counties to evacuate, and advised residents in other counties to be off the streets by 6pm this evening.
The parks will close at 5pm local time today (Thursday) and will not open at all on Friday.
Walt Disney World’s decision to close follows similar closures announced by SeaWorld yesterday and Universal earlier this morning.
The category 4 hurricane has already caused devastation in Haiti and barrelled through the Bahamas. It is now forecast to hit Florida’s east coast on Thursday night.
Airlines have already cancelled flights in and out of Orlando International airport. Local media report that the majority of flights will be grounded by 7:30pm this evening as the storm intensifies.
Current tracks suggest the storm will clear the Florida coastline by Saturday daytime although theme park operators have not reached a decision yet about re-opening on Saturday.
It is unusual for the parks to completely shut down during normal operations, but it's not the first time. It happened in 2004 for hurricane Charley and in 2001, operators evacuated the parks as the 9/11 attacks unfolded, fearing they could be another target.