It takes a lot to close the happiest place on Earth. Hurricane Matthew prompted a rare shutdown of Walt Disney World in Orlando today. It’s only the fourth time the park has closed since it opened in 1971.
Disney officials locked the gates at 5 p.m. Thursday and said the park will remain closed through Friday as Hurricane Matthew pummels the central coast of Florida.
More than 500,000 in Florida are without power as of Friday morning.
The closures extend to “theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses, and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex,” a spokesperson told the Associated Press. Disney had already evacuated its Fort Wilderness.
Hurricanes are about the only thing that will prompt a closure at the popular theme park. The last time Disney World closed was Sept. 26, 2004, in anticipation of Hurricane Jeanne. In 1999, the park closed twice: once for Hurricane Frances on Sept. 4 and 5, and another time for Hurricane Floyd on Sept. 15.
Disney was the last of Florida’s theme parks to announce its closure. Universal Studios and SeaWorld are closed today. LegoLand and Kennedy Space Center are also closed.
More than 500,000 in Florida are without power, Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Friday morning.
Sporting events are being rescheduled, too.
Two college football games set to be played Saturday — LSU at No. 18 Florida, as well as Charlotte at Florida Atlantic — were postponed. It’s not so much because of more bad weather — because the forecast isn’t bad for the weekend, according to the AP. It’s whether police, first responders, and other key personnel needed at football games that draw massive crowds will be deployed to assist in hurricane-hit areas.
And of course, concert schedules for artists including Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, and The Chainsmokers, among others, have been nixed because of safety concerns.
In addition to entertainment events being affected by the hurricane, entertainers are tweeting about Matthew.
Vanilla Ice, the singer who was just booted off “Dancing with the Stars” this week, was in Palm Beach and chose to ride out the storm there.
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Other stars are making pleas to help hurricane victims.
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President Obama has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.