Hurricane Matthew Forces Disney World to Close for First Time in 11 Years

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Walt Disney World is often dubbed “the happiest place on earth.” One of the greatest things about that wonderful, happy place is that it’s always open. Every day of the year — seven days a week, 365 days a year. In fact, since the resort opened in 1971, it has only closed three times.

A Rare Disney World Closure

Hurricane Matthew Trajectory
Image Credit: Weather Underground

The frightening strength of Hurricane Matthew has forced Disney to make the difficult decision to close. The entire resort will be closed by 5:00 PM on Thursday and will remain closed on Friday. It is scheduled to reopen on Saturday, October 8. Of course, that depends on how much damage the parks and surrounding areas incur.

A statement from a Walt Disney World spokesman reads, “Based on the most recent forecasts for Hurricane Matthew, Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will all be closed today by 5 p.m., and will remain closed through Friday, Oct. 7.”

Guests have been evacuated at several Disney World resort hotels, as well. The Fort Wilderness Campground, the Polynesian Bungalows, and Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas have all been evacuated.

The last time Walt Disney World closed was September 26, 2004. That was due to another storm, Hurricane Jeanne. Just a few weeks prior on September 4, 2004, the park closed due to Hurricane Frances. The first time the park ever closed was on September 15, 1999 as a result of Hurricane Floyd.

Hurricane Matthew is No Laughing Matter

Hurricane Matthew has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with. Hundreds of people were killed when the storm made landfall in Haiti. Matthew is scheduled to arrive in Florida on Thursday night near West Palm Beach. The storm will then ride the shoreline all the way up the coast into South Carolina.

The massive storm is still categorized as a Category 4 storm. It has sustained winds of up to 130 MPH. Officials warn that a direct hit could lead to “massive destruction” like nothing that has been seen since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Disney does have a hurricane policy for reservations — but only if you booked through their Walt Disney Travel Company. You can read the full FAQ here. Basically, though, if a Hurricane Warning was issued within seven days of your reservation, you can call to cancel or reschedule without any additional fees.

Disneyland Closures

Disneyland in California has also only closed three times, though none of them were due to weather. (To be fair, the park has closed early a few times due to weather, though.) The first time Disneyland closed was November 25, 1963. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared that day a national day of mourning for President John F. Kennedy. JFK had been killed only three days earlier, on November 22, 1963.

The second time Disneyland closed was in January of 1994. The Northridge Earthquake shook the entire state and was felt as far away as Las Vegas. The park closed for an entire day for inspections. Every ride and area had to be checked for the safety of the guests.

Disneyland’s most recent closure was much more abrupt. On September 11, 2001, employees were getting ready to open the park when news of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. hit the airwaves. After several panicked hours, the decision was made to close the park for the day.