8:00 a.m. Update on Hurricane Irma’s Predicted Affect on Central Florida

This post will be updated [at least] twice daily with the 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. updates from the National Hurricane Center as well as any updates from the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld.

Update 09/11/17 8:00 a.m.

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Hurricane Irma has passed over the Orlando area, but with less impact than initially feared. However, winds up to 43 mph and gusts up to 69 mph are still being reported near downtown Orlando. Hurricane force winds still extend outward up to 60 miles from the eye of the storm, with tropical force winds extending up to 415 miles. Irma is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm this morning. Nearly 60%, or 6 million, Florida homes and businesses across Florida are without power. In Central Florida, 750,000 were still without power as of this morning. That’s almost half of the homes and business in Central Florida. A flood watch and curfew are still in effect until Monday event with another 2-4 inches of rain are expected today. Guests staying at Walt Disney World are advised to continue to honor the curfew.

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Update 09/10/17 11:00 p.m.:

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Hurricane Irma has shifted its path once again and the eye of the storm is heading for Orlando with sustained winds of 100 mph. Orlando is on the northeast side of the store, which is where the worst weather is. Tropical storm force winds are extending 425 from the center of the storm. Tornadoes have been touching down all over the area and at least 50,000 people in the Orlando area are without power. Across Florida there are currently 3.4 million homes without power. There has been one fatality reported in the Orlando/Orange County area, when a woman driving on State Road 417 just before the 7:00 p.m. curfew went into effect hit a guardrail and was killed. Mayor Teresa Jacobs is advising residents to “please stay indoors. Stay in the safest place of your home until we get through this storm.”

Update 09/10/17 9:00 a.m.:

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As expected, Hurricane Irma strengthened overnight back to a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 135 as it made landfall in Key West. The storm has continued moving more to the west. As a result, projections for extreme wind in Central Florida have been slightly downgraded, with some projections calling for top wind speeds of 60 mph. The storm is also expected to pass earlier than initially thought, with Central Florida starting to see winds below 40 mph around 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. It is expected that the Disney/Orlando area will see rainfall totaling 15-20 inches over the next 24 hours. Tropical force winds will be felt in the area as early as noon today, with hurricane force winds arriving late this evening and early tomorrow morning. Also of great concern is the risk of tornadoes in the area. Tornado warnings have already been issued in some Central Florida counties, and that is expected to increase as the day goes on. Already, more than 1 million people are without power in South Florida and that number is expected to grow significantly as the storm progresses up the west coast of the state. Curfews have been issued for several Central Florida counties, including Orange County where the curfew begins at 7:00 p.m. Sunday and continues through 6:00 p.m. Monday.

Update 09/09/17 5:00 p.m.:

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Hurricane Irma has begun turning towards the Florida Keys. The storm is just off the coast of Cuba with sustained winds of 125 mph. It is expected to intensify back to a category 4 hurricane before making landfall in Fort Meyers early tomorrow morning. The track of the storm has continued to shift to the west, and the Disney/Orlando area is no longer expected to have the eye of the storm pass over as previously thought. However, it does put this area in the north-east quadrant of the storm, where the strongest wind gusts and greatest potential for tornadoes exist. More than 7 million people in South Florida are currently under a mandatory evacuation order. Most of the businesses in the Central Florida area have closed in advance of the storm or will be closing soon.

Update 09/09/17 2:00 p.m.:

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The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for Central Florida earlier today. Previously, the area was considered under a hurricane watch. Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a Category 3 storm this morning, but is expected to strengthen as it passes over warmer waters before making landfall in South Florida later this evening. Orlando is expecting tropical force winds starting mid-day Sunday, with winds intensifying to 60-80 mph overnight. Wind speeds are expected to peak around 3am Monday before dropping below 35 mph by Monday afternoon. While the storm’s path continues to track more to the west, the size of the storm is still encompassing most of the state.

At Walt Disney World, Cast Members are beginning to make preparations for the storm.

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At Magic Kingdom, scrims have been taken down on Main Street USA. Throughout the park, signs and benches are being tied down or secured.

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UPDATE 9/9/17 8:00 a.m.:

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Hurricane Irma is back to being a category 4 hurricane, after briefly intensifying overnight. The storm track has shifted west, with landfall expected in the Naples/Fort Myers area of South Florida. This will put the Orlando/Disney area on the east side of the storm, which typically has the strongest winds, and is were the risk of tornado formation is the greatest. Local officials have said that tropical force winds should hit the Orlando/Disney area around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, with winds in excess of 40mph. Hurricane force winds are expected overnight Sunday into Monday, with sustained winds in excess of 85mph and wind gusts up to 110mph. Orange County has issued a mandatory evacuation of all mobile home parks in the area. If you are in the Orlando/Disney area, you are urged to remain indoors after 12:00 p.m. Sunday until the storm passes on Monday. Today is the last day to make any preparations. If you are staying at a Disney or Orlando area resort, make sure you have enough food and water to sustain you and your family for 24 hours, as most food service locations will close during the storm.

In addition to the closures listed below in the last update, Walt Disney World has updated the transportation schedule for today. Disney Resort transportation from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will end at 8:00 p.m. tonight. Disney Resort transportation from Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Springs will end at 10:00 p.m. tonight.

Also, the Disney Reservation Center will be closed Sunday and Monday, but plans to resume normal operations when the storm has passed. The Reservation Center will operate as normal on Saturday.

UPDATE 9/8/17 5:00 p.m.:

Irma Track Update 5pm Fri

Hurricane Irma remains at a Category 4 this afternoon with the winds picking back up to 155mph. The storm is moving West at 12mph. The track has fluctuated to the West a bit causing a storm surge watch for the Tampa Bay area that includes the Naples and Fort Myers areas. A hurricane warning has been extended northward to the East coast of Florida to the Sebastian Inlet and on the West coast as far North as Anna Maria Island. The storm is still expected to impact the Orlando area from Sunday evening through Monday morning.

The following closures are taking place at the Walt Disney World Resort due to Hurricane Irma:

Disney’s Blizzard Beach: Closed as of Friday, 9/8 – Monday, 9/11

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon: Closing Saturday 9/9 at 5:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

ESPN Wide World of Sports: Closed on Saturday, 9/9 – Monday, 9/11

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 7:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Rivers of Light performance is canceled.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 7:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Fantasmic! and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular performances are canceled.

Epcot: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 9:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Illuminations Reflections of Earth performance is canceled.

Magic Kingdom: Closing early on Saturday, 9/9 at 9:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Happily Ever After fireworks performance is canceled.

Disney Springs: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 9:00 p.m. – Monday 9/11

La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil 9:00 p.m. show has been canceled for Saturday, Sept. 9.

The TreeHouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa will be closed beginning Saturday, 9/9 at 2:00 p.m.

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— DisneyPhotoPass (@DisneyPhotoPass) September 8, 2017

Disney Dining announcement

On Saturday, all parks at the Universal Orlando Resort will close at 7:00 p.m. Rock The Universe has also been canceled as previously announced. Universal is scheduled to be closed all day Sunday as well as Monday. Universal also plans on resuming normal operating hours on Tuesday. All on-site hotels are currently at full capacity, and they will remain operational throughout the hurricane.

SeaWorld will be closing at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

UPDATE 9/8/17 8:00 a.m.:

Irma Track Update 8am Fri

Hurricane Irma is now on a direct path to travel right through Central Florida according to both the Euro and US track models. Irma has been downgraded this morning to a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds at 150mph. The storm is expected to make landfall in the Florida Keys Saturday night or early Sunday and if current projections are accurate. Local weather forecasts are predicting the storm to pass through the Orlando area as a Category 2 hurricane; calling for sustained 90 to 110 mph winds from Sunday evening through Monday morning with an estimated 18-20 inches of rain predicted. While the worst parts of the storm won’t be felt until Sunday and Monday, the rain from the storm will begin affecting the area on Saturday. Orlando is not currently under any evacuation order (either voluntary or mandatory).

As of 3:00 PM today, Port Canaveral will cease all operations and is closed until further notice.

All Florida public schools, colleges, and government offices have been ordered by Governor Rick Scott to close beginning today and remaining closed through Monday.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach will be closed Friday and Saturday. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon will remain open.

In order to prepare for Hurricane Irma’s arrival in Central Florida, the hours of operation for Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and Disney’s Winter Summerland miniature golf courses will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

I-75 Florida to Georgia Southbound lanes have been reversed to all Northbound lanes to accommodate evacuation traffic. This currently applies to lanes in Georgia only. Stay tuned for updates.

Still heading to the Central Florida area for vacation? We recommend that you bring some food with you as there will not be much in the way of food service at the Disney Resort hotels. Take a look at “Non-Perishable Food That Travels Well in Your Suitcase” for some ideas.

UPDATE 9/7/17 5:00 p.m.:

Irma Track Update 5pm Thurs

Hurricane Irma still remains a very powerful category 5 storm. Winds are sustained at 175mph and moving West Northwest at 16mph. The National Hurricane Center has updated the track of the storm shifting it more to the west, increasing the impact to Central Florida. The new model has the eye of the storm going right through the center of the state and it’s likely to remain a category 3 as it passes over Orlando.

Hurricane Categories

Orlando International Airport has announced that it will cease commercial airline operations at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Disney has stated that Fort Wilderness Cabins and Campground will close beginning Saturday afternoon. Performances of Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ have been canceled for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Highway in the Sky Dine Around has been canceled for Saturday.

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will close beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.

Adventures by Disney has canceled their Backstage Magic for Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. They have also canceled the Gardens of the World tour for Tuesday.

Evacuation orders include 650,000 residents in Miami.

30 Georgia counties are under a state of emergency. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Savannah and other coastal areas as Hurricane Irma heads to Florida before possibly turning to the east coast of the U.S. The mandatory evacuation order covers all areas east of I-95, all of Chatham County, where Savannah is located, and some areas west of I-95 that could be impacted by potential storm surge from Irma. The mandatory evacuation order goes into effect on Saturday.

Jose is now a category 3, major hurricane with sustained winds at 120mph traveling West Northwest at 18mph.

UPDATE 9/7/17 8:00 a.m.:

Irma Track Update 8am Thurs

Hurricane Irma’s “cone of concern” has shifted a bit bringing the likelihood of a stronger impact in the Central Florida area. The hurricane is expected to be over Central Florida at around 2:00 a.m. between Sunday night and Monday morning.

From the Walt Disney World website:

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 call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.

If you have products and services provided by third-party suppliers included in your vacation such as airlines, hotels, car rental agencies or vacation insurance companies, you will continue to be responsible for any non-refundable payments, as well as cancellation or change fees assessed by those suppliers. The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences.

This policy also applies to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort or Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in the event a hurricane warning is issued for those destinations.

Disney is asking guests who are not arriving before September 13 to use their online Help Center or live chat at this time to allow Cast Members to focus on those with Hurricane Irma concerns.

Hurricane Jose’s winds are currently estimated at 90mph. Jose is currently located approximately 815 miles East of the Lesser Antilles and is moving toward the west-northwest at nearly 18 mph.

Hurricane Katia remains stationary and little overall motion is anticipated through late today, but the hurricane is forecast to turn southwestward and approach the coast within the watch area late Friday or early Saturday. Maximum sustained winds remain near 80mph with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Katia could be near major hurricane strength at landfall.

UPDATE 9/6/17 5:00 p.m.:

Irma Track Update 6pm Wed

Hurricane Irma remains at a category 5 with sustained winds of up to 185 mph and moving west-northwest at 16 mph. The hurricane is now predicted to bring storm force winds to Miami at around 10:00 a.m. Sunday and into Central Florida sometime Sunday afternoon and into Monday.

Quickly strengthening Jose, following just behind Irma, has now become a hurricane. Winds are estimated at 75mph. Jose is moving toward the west-northwest at 16 mph.

The Walt Disney World Resort has created a page on their site specifically for Hurricane Irma information as well as Frequently Asked Questions regarding their hurricane policy.

Orlando International Airport Flights Affected by Irma

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida back in 1992, an anti-gouging law was passed to prevent price gouging on storm supplies such as plywood and gasoline. Anyone who suspects price gouging should report it by calling 1 (866) 9-NO-SCAM.

Hurricane Katia has now formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Katia is moving southeast near 3 mph. The state of Veracruz is under a hurricane watch.

UPDATE 9/6/17 11:00 a.m.:

Hurricane Irma’s track has shifted eastward. The Category 5 storm continues to have maximum sustained winds of 185 mph as it churns through the Caribbean islands. There is still uncertainty in exactly when and where Hurricane Irma will turn to the north. The models have the storm heading with an easterly track with the turn near Cuba or in the southern Bahamas which would take Irma along the east coast of Florida.

Tropical Storm Jose is getting closer to reaching hurricane stage.

Tropical Strom Katia in the Gulf of Mexico is now forecast to become a hurricane.

Driving home instead of waiting out the storm in Central Florida? Check out Florida 511 for traffic information and hurricane evacuation routes. All tolls have been suspended on all Florida roadways.

Staying at a Walt Disney World resort is possibly one of the safest places to be in Central Florida during a hurricane, but if you happen to be staying off-property and don’t necessarily trust where you are staying, here is the website where you can look for the Florida Shelters nearest to your location.

If you are heading to the Central Florida area for vacation, take a look at our “Preparing for Hurricane Irma at Walt Disney World” article.

UPDATE 9/6/17 8:00 a.m.:

Disney Cruise Line has canceled three cruises later this week and cut two in-progress cruises short.

Central Florida should expect tropical storm force winds topping out at 55mph sometime on Sunday into Monday based on the overnight changes to the storm. The National Hurricane Center does expect more changes to the path of the storm, and it is important to keep in mind that it’s still too early to predict where it will make landfall.

As of this morning, Disney has not issued travel waivers for Walt Disney World, nor have the airlines.

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Original Story:

This morning, as the nation watches Irma strengthen into a category 5 Hurricane, we want to make you aware of things you can do to prepare if you have a Disney vacation coming up this week. This story will be updated each time we receive an update from the National Weather Service.

Key Messages on Category 5 Hurricane #Irma for 8am EDT pic.twitter.com/7dsEmJX4yY

— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 5, 2017

With the storm looking like it may approach the United States closer to the end of this week, there have already been changes to Disney Cruise Line itineraries and here is what you can do if your plans include heading to Walt Disney World.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew affected several Disney Cruise Line vacations. Those who were at Walt Disney World at the time experienced the theme parks actually closing for a day-and-a-half, but guests were taken care of rather nicely.

First, there is a “Hurricane Policy” already in place for those visiting Walt Disney World if a hurricane warning is issued – from the official Disney website:

“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 call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.”

Flights, private transportation, and any other arrangements booked through a third-party will fall under the responsibility of the guest and not Disney. There haven’t been any reported changes to schedules at Walt Disney World as of the time of this story, but again, we will keep you informed as we hear anything.

It is extremely important to stay informed with all forecasts and the projected path of Hurricane Irma by following the National Weather Service. As of now, no schedule changes have been reported at Walt Disney World.

If the time comes that a hurricane warning is issued for dates during your trip, contact your travel agent, the Walt Disney Travel Company, or Disney Cruise Line to find out your options which can include the cancellation of your trip, rescheduling of your trip, and alternate or changed itineraries.

While the exact path of Hurricane Irma is still unknown at this point, it’s important that you stay alert and updated.

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The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Begins November 19

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Epcot’s popular celebration Holidays Around the World is being reimagined into the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. There aren’t a lot of details in what this change to the name means for the festival itself, but what we do know is that this year there will be 15 Holiday Marketplaces, new and returning entertainment that celebrates culture and the holidays, and lastly that there will be a completely new scavenger hunt.

The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is starting earlier than any holiday festival has, as it will begin on Sunday, November 19.

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BREAKING: ‘Sunset Seasons Greetings’ Set to Debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this Holiday Season

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A brand new holiday experience has just been announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

Beginning November 9 and going through December 31, 2017, guests visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios this holiday season will have the opportunity to experience several new offerings including:

Sunset Seasons Greetings – This new nighttime holiday experience will feature magnificent projections of Mickey, Minnie and other beloved Disney characters sharing their favorite Christmas stories as a snowy Sunset Boulevard twinkles with remarkable holiday decorations. This charming scene becomes enchanted with holiday magic that will bring billboards to life and transform the famous Hollywood Tower Hotel into a giant pile of Christmas gifts, a gingerbread house, and a frozen winter wonderland! A frosty summer-loving snowman might even make an appearance to share his holiday wish! The fantastic and heartwarming experience will run continuously throughout the evening. Here are some additional details:

  • Mickey and Minnie will reminisce about a hometown Christmas as the scene shifts into a romanticized, Norman Rockwell-inspired town — the scene will start in black and white before slowly changing into color.
  • The Toy Story characters will be speculating on which new toys are coming this Christmas as the scene becomes covered in holiday wrapping paper.
  • The Swedish Chef from The Muppets will be babbling as only he can while the scene turns into giant gingerbread houses.
  • Olaf pining over his holiday wish as iconic music plays and the scene freezes over into a Frozen winter wonderland — complete with dancing Aurora Borealis lights and projected falling snow.

Enhanced holiday décor around Echo Lake – Extra-large ornaments, colorful garlands and a giant Christmas tree centered on the water will make Echo Lake the merriest of places this holiday season. Even Dinosaur Gertie will be dressed for the occasion with a dino-Santa hat!

A new friend joins the cast of ‘For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration’ – The holiday fun continues as Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff welcome Olaf to the sing-along celebration, featuring for a limited time all-new songs from Disney’s new animated short “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” at Hyperion Theater.

Source: Disney

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Plaza de la Familia Coming to California Adventure for Halloween Time

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The Disneyland Resort has released more details about the Coco-inspired celebration coming to Disney California Adventure for Halloween Time.

Plaza de la Familia will take over the Paradise Gardens area of Paradise Pier and will feature Mexican foods, decorations, music, and the traditions of Dia de los Muertos.

“A Musical Celebration of Coco” will feature storytellers and original songs from Disney-Pixar’s Coco performed by folkloric dancers, the award-winning Mariachi Divas, and a singing host named Mateo. They will also share the stage with other authentic Mariachi groups performing throughout the day.

Paradise Garden Grill will set aside its Mediterranean menu in favor of an all-new menu of Mexican food.

The area will also feature an interactive Tree of Life photo locations that celebrates loved ones who have passed and the family bonds that last forever.

Halloween Time and Plaza de la Familia begin September 15th at the Disneyland Resort. Coco opens in theaters on November 22nd.

Source: Disney Parks Blog

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New Westin Hotel Coming to Anaheim

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Developers have finally announced that the seven-story luxury hotel that will replace the recently closed Anabella Hotel in Anaheim will be the Westin Anaheim Resort.

The popular Anabella, which sits just south of Disneyland and near the Anaheim Convention Center, welcomed its final guests last month after developers announced a AAA four-diamond rated hotel would be replacing it. The high-end hotel will be built in order to take advantage of a tax incentive that had been offered by the City of Anaheim.

The new property will including 613 rooms, with 101 of those being suites. The hotel will also offer three restaurants, a pool, a roof-top lounge, and 42,000 square feet of convention space.

Groundbreaking on the Westin Anaheim Resort is set for September 13th, with the hotel expected to open in 2019.

Source: Orange County Register

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BREAKING: Saturday’s Night of Joy and Sunday’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Have Been Cancelled

Night of Joy 2017

In anticipation of inclement weather associated with Hurricane Irma, please note the following event cancellations at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Night of Joy has been canceled on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

The Night of Joy performances on Friday night will take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex as planned, while Saturday night’s performances have been canceled due to Hurricane Irma.

• Guests with tickets for Saturday are welcome to attend Friday’s event instead by exchanging their ticket at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Box Office starting at 4:00pm Friday.

• Requests for a full refund for either event night will be honored by using the contact information listed below.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been canceled on Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Guests are invited to exchange their Sunday, September 10 event tickets for one of the following options:

• Tickets to attend another Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

• Tickets to attend an upcoming Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

• 1 Day Magic Your Way Tickets with Park Hopper Option, to be used within the next two years.

• Receive a full refund for event tickets.

Requests for a full refund for either event night will be honored; please call (407) 939-7818.

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8 Things Cast Members Want You to Know About Their Discounts

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The best, rarely talked about method to save money at Walt Disney World or Disneyland is to have a friend that works there. When I say friend, I mean a true, genuine friend. Not someone you haven’t spoken to since high school who sat next to you in biology, but an actual, true friend. I do not condone commoditizing friendship, so after reading this article, don’t rush out into the streets looking for that Cast Member to befriend.

1) Cast Members get asked for discounts a lot.

It’s the occupational hazard of working for Disney. They are sick of it. Everyone on their Facebook feed asks them for discounts. Everyone that was a best friend in high school that has lost touch suddenly reappears when they travel to Disney. Don’t be that person.

2) Don’t ask Cast Members for discounts.

Trust me, if you are good friends, they will offer them to you if they have any available. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t ask your Cast Member friend to stay with them at their house when you visit, you are not close enough for them to even consider offering you a discount. If this trip is a family vacation, and you are not planning on spending substantial time with this friend, you are not close enough to them. Keep this in mind when you are thinking of asking someone for discounts.

3) Cast Members don’t get unlimited guest passes.

In fact, they get very few. Depending on the status of that Cast Member, they may receive as little as 6 days of Park Hoppers for their six-month College Program. Those 6 days are usually reserved for when family comes into town. Cast Members who have been with the company for 15 years are given a Silver Pass, which allows them to pass-in unlimited guests. So don’t get mad when your Cast Member friend can’t get you in. They want to, but ‘ohana comes first.

4) Guest passes require you to stay with your guests.

If your friend is working, you are not getting into the parks for free. If your friend is not with you, you aren’t getting into the parks for free.

5) Park tickets are sacred.

So your friend can’t go to the park with you when you visit, maybe they have a spare park ticket or two. Cast Members receive park tickets that will allow entrance to any of the domestic parks, as well as Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney Studio Park (Paris studios), or Hong Kong Disneyland. Some of the tickets are given to boost Cast Member moral. Sometimes Cast Members receive passes by donating a small portion of their paycheck to charity, or donating blood. The last passes I received during my stint as a CM was for spending the evening beta-testing MagicBands by riding Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster repetitively (hard job, but someone had to do it). If you are given a park ticket, be extremely gracious towards your Cast Member friend. They didn’t get those tickets for doing nothing.

6) Your behavior reflects on the Cast Member.

So don’t do anything stupid! Misconduct by you can lead to your friend getting terminated, which would lead to your friendship being terminated. Think nobody heard you swear loudly at the greeter at Space Mountain? Think again. The mouse has big ears.

7) They can’t give you discounts on food or merchandise.

Yes, those are two of the huge expenses. Yes, Cast Members get great discounts on both merch and food, but they cannot discount those items for you. There is a good amount of fear had by The Walt Disney Company of folks buying merchandise with a Cast Member discount, then reselling items for below market value on the internet.

8) Treat yo friend.

Whoever just passed you into the parks just saved you $100+. Be grateful. It is no secret that Cast Members don’t make much money. If you are able to travel to Disney you are in a position of privilege that most Cast Members cannot afford. Cast Members are taking time out of their day to show you around and save you money, all in a place they frequent for work. Think about that. Someone likes you so much they are willing to spend time and money on their day off to take you around their workplace. I recommend buying your CM friend a nice meal as a thank you.

Working at the Disney Parks is a lot of work for little pay. Discounts are one of the best benefits of being a Cast Member. Don’t be that “friend” on Facebook who tries to take advantage of discounts given to someone you hardly know.

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Hurricane Irma Prep Exposes Grand Ave, Plus More Updates at Hollywood Studios

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Hurricane Irma increasingly looks like it will have an impact on Central Florida, and the Walt Disney World Resort is preparing for the worst-case scenario. Today at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, construction walls covering Grand Avenue were taken down exposing the construction of the street that will lead up to Star Wars Land.

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There isn’t a ton of information that can be gathered at this time from these photos, but it does give a general sense of what Grand Avenue will look like. Additionally, tucked away in the corner, there looks to be a reimagined Writer’s Stop, the beloved coffee shop and book/movie store. Obviously, it is unknown whether it will re-open as the Writer’s Stop, but let’s hope.

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There isn’t a lot to see, but near the entrance of what will be Toy Story Land, near Pixar Place, the scrims are exposed in preparation for the storm as well.

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Unrelated to the storm, but also in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is the new signage for Walt Disney Presents! The new signage lacks the large Walt Disney cutout and is replaced by a more retro elegant look.

Lastly, Echo Lake has been drained for refurbishment. There isn’t a ton to see here, but it is interesting to see the lake emptied out.

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5:00 p.m. Update on Hurricane Irma’s Predicted Affect on Central Florida

This post will be updated [at least] twice daily with the 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. updates from the National Hurricane Center as well as any updates from the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld.

Update 09/11/17 8:00 a.m.

IRMA0911178am

Hurricane Irma has passed over the Orlando area, but with less impact than initially feared. However, winds up to 43 mph and gusts up to 69 mph are still being reported near downtown Orlando. Hurricane force winds still extend outward up to 60 miles from the eye of the storm, with tropical force winds extending up to 415 miles. Irma is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm this morning. Nearly 60%, or 6 million, Florida homes and businesses across Florida are without power. In Central Florida, 750,000 were still without power as of this morning. That’s almost half of the homes and business in Central Florida. A flood watch and curfew are still in effect until Monday event with another 2-4 inches of rain are expected today. Guests staying at Walt Disney World are advised to continue to honor the curfew.

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Update 09/10/17 11:00 p.m.:

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Hurricane Irma has shifted its path once again and the eye of the storm is heading for Orlando with sustained winds of 100 mph. Orlando is on the northeast side of the store, which is where the worst weather is. Tropical storm force winds are extending 425 from the center of the storm. Tornadoes have been touching down all over the area and at least 50,000 people in the Orlando area are without power. Across Florida there are currently 3.4 million homes without power. There has been one fatality reported in the Orlando/Orange County area, when a woman driving on State Road 417 just before the 7:00 p.m. curfew went into effect hit a guardrail and was killed. Mayor Teresa Jacobs is advising residents to “please stay indoors. Stay in the safest place of your home until we get through this storm.”

Update 09/10/17 9:00 a.m.:

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As expected, Hurricane Irma strengthened overnight back to a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 135 as it made landfall in Key West. The storm has continued moving more to the west. As a result, projections for extreme wind in Central Florida have been slightly downgraded, with some projections calling for top wind speeds of 60 mph. The storm is also expected to pass earlier than initially thought, with Central Florida starting to see winds below 40 mph around 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. It is expected that the Disney/Orlando area will see rainfall totaling 15-20 inches over the next 24 hours. Tropical force winds will be felt in the area as early as noon today, with hurricane force winds arriving late this evening and early tomorrow morning. Also of great concern is the risk of tornadoes in the area. Tornado warnings have already been issued in some Central Florida counties, and that is expected to increase as the day goes on. Already, more than 1 million people are without power in South Florida and that number is expected to grow significantly as the storm progresses up the west coast of the state. Curfews have been issued for several Central Florida counties, including Orange County where the curfew begins at 7:00 p.m. Sunday and continues through 6:00 p.m. Monday.

Update 09/09/17 5:00 p.m.:

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Hurricane Irma has begun turning towards the Florida Keys. The storm is just off the coast of Cuba with sustained winds of 125 mph. It is expected to intensify back to a category 4 hurricane before making landfall in Fort Meyers early tomorrow morning. The track of the storm has continued to shift to the west, and the Disney/Orlando area is no longer expected to have the eye of the storm pass over as previously thought. However, it does put this area in the north-east quadrant of the storm, where the strongest wind gusts and greatest potential for tornadoes exist. More than 7 million people in South Florida are currently under a mandatory evacuation order. Most of the businesses in the Central Florida area have closed in advance of the storm or will be closing soon.

Update 09/09/17 2:00 p.m.:

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The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for Central Florida earlier today. Previously, the area was considered under a hurricane watch. Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a Category 3 storm this morning, but is expected to strengthen as it passes over warmer waters before making landfall in South Florida later this evening. Orlando is expecting tropical force winds starting mid-day Sunday, with winds intensifying to 60-80 mph overnight. Wind speeds are expected to peak around 3am Monday before dropping below 35 mph by Monday afternoon. While the storm’s path continues to track more to the west, the size of the storm is still encompassing most of the state.

At Walt Disney World, Cast Members are beginning to make preparations for the storm.

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At Magic Kingdom, scrims have been taken down on Main Street USA. Throughout the park, signs and benches are being tied down or secured.

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UPDATE 9/9/17 8:00 a.m.:

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Hurricane Irma is back to being a category 4 hurricane, after briefly intensifying overnight. The storm track has shifted west, with landfall expected in the Naples/Fort Myers area of South Florida. This will put the Orlando/Disney area on the east side of the storm, which typically has the strongest winds, and is were the risk of tornado formation is the greatest. Local officials have said that tropical force winds should hit the Orlando/Disney area around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, with winds in excess of 40mph. Hurricane force winds are expected overnight Sunday into Monday, with sustained winds in excess of 85mph and wind gusts up to 110mph. Orange County has issued a mandatory evacuation of all mobile home parks in the area. If you are in the Orlando/Disney area, you are urged to remain indoors after 12:00 p.m. Sunday until the storm passes on Monday. Today is the last day to make any preparations. If you are staying at a Disney or Orlando area resort, make sure you have enough food and water to sustain you and your family for 24 hours, as most food service locations will close during the storm.

In addition to the closures listed below in the last update, Walt Disney World has updated the transportation schedule for today. Disney Resort transportation from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will end at 8:00 p.m. tonight. Disney Resort transportation from Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Springs will end at 10:00 p.m. tonight.

Also, the Disney Reservation Center will be closed Sunday and Monday, but plans to resume normal operations when the storm has passed. The Reservation Center will operate as normal on Saturday.

UPDATE 9/8/17 5:00 p.m.:

Irma Track Update 5pm Fri

Hurricane Irma remains at a Category 4 this afternoon with the winds picking back up to 155mph. The storm is moving West at 12mph. The track has fluctuated to the West a bit causing a storm surge watch for the Tampa Bay area that includes the Naples and Fort Myers areas. A hurricane warning has been extended northward to the East coast of Florida to the Sebastian Inlet and on the West coast as far North as Anna Maria Island. The storm is still expected to impact the Orlando area from Sunday evening through Monday morning.

The following closures are taking place at the Walt Disney World Resort due to Hurricane Irma:

Disney’s Blizzard Beach: Closed as of Friday, 9/8 – Monday, 9/11

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon: Closing Saturday 9/9 at 5:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

ESPN Wide World of Sports: Closed on Saturday, 9/9 – Monday, 9/11

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 7:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Rivers of Light performance is canceled.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 7:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Fantasmic! and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular performances are canceled.

Epcot: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 9:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Illuminations Reflections of Earth performance is canceled.

Magic Kingdom: Closing early on Saturday, 9/9 at 9:00 p.m. – Monday, 9/11

The Saturday, 9/9 Happily Ever After fireworks performance is canceled.

Disney Springs: Closing on Saturday, 9/9 at 9:00 p.m. – Monday 9/11

La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil 9:00 p.m. show has been canceled for Saturday, Sept. 9.

The TreeHouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa will be closed beginning Saturday, 9/9 at 2:00 p.m.

pic.twitter.com/EOj1lBa9NG

— DisneyPhotoPass (@DisneyPhotoPass) September 8, 2017

Disney Dining announcement

On Saturday, all parks at the Universal Orlando Resort will close at 7:00 p.m. Rock The Universe has also been canceled as previously announced. Universal is scheduled to be closed all day Sunday as well as Monday. Universal also plans on resuming normal operating hours on Tuesday. All on-site hotels are currently at full capacity, and they will remain operational throughout the hurricane.

SeaWorld will be closing at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

UPDATE 9/8/17 8:00 a.m.:

Irma Track Update 8am Fri

Hurricane Irma is now on a direct path to travel right through Central Florida according to both the Euro and US track models. Irma has been downgraded this morning to a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds at 150mph. The storm is expected to make landfall in the Florida Keys Saturday night or early Sunday and if current projections are accurate. Local weather forecasts are predicting the storm to pass through the Orlando area as a Category 2 hurricane; calling for sustained 90 to 110 mph winds from Sunday evening through Monday morning with an estimated 18-20 inches of rain predicted. While the worst parts of the storm won’t be felt until Sunday and Monday, the rain from the storm will begin affecting the area on Saturday. Orlando is not currently under any evacuation order (either voluntary or mandatory).

As of 3:00 PM today, Port Canaveral will cease all operations and is closed until further notice.

All Florida public schools, colleges, and government offices have been ordered by Governor Rick Scott to close beginning today and remaining closed through Monday.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach will be closed Friday and Saturday. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon will remain open.

In order to prepare for Hurricane Irma’s arrival in Central Florida, the hours of operation for Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and Disney’s Winter Summerland miniature golf courses will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

I-75 Florida to Georgia Southbound lanes have been reversed to all Northbound lanes to accommodate evacuation traffic. This currently applies to lanes in Georgia only. Stay tuned for updates.

Still heading to the Central Florida area for vacation? We recommend that you bring some food with you as there will not be much in the way of food service at the Disney Resort hotels. Take a look at “Non-Perishable Food That Travels Well in Your Suitcase” for some ideas.

UPDATE 9/7/17 5:00 p.m.:

Irma Track Update 5pm Thurs

Hurricane Irma still remains a very powerful category 5 storm. Winds are sustained at 175mph and moving West Northwest at 16mph. The National Hurricane Center has updated the track of the storm shifting it more to the west, increasing the impact to Central Florida. The new model has the eye of the storm going right through the center of the state and it’s likely to remain a category 3 as it passes over Orlando.

Hurricane Categories

Orlando International Airport has announced that it will cease commercial airline operations at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Disney has stated that Fort Wilderness Cabins and Campground will close beginning Saturday afternoon. Performances of Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ have been canceled for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Highway in the Sky Dine Around has been canceled for Saturday.

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will close beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.

Adventures by Disney has canceled their Backstage Magic for Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. They have also canceled the Gardens of the World tour for Tuesday.

Evacuation orders include 650,000 residents in Miami.

30 Georgia counties are under a state of emergency. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Savannah and other coastal areas as Hurricane Irma heads to Florida before possibly turning to the east coast of the U.S. The mandatory evacuation order covers all areas east of I-95, all of Chatham County, where Savannah is located, and some areas west of I-95 that could be impacted by potential storm surge from Irma. The mandatory evacuation order goes into effect on Saturday.

Jose is now a category 3, major hurricane with sustained winds at 120mph traveling West Northwest at 18mph.

UPDATE 9/7/17 8:00 a.m.:

Irma Track Update 8am Thurs

Hurricane Irma’s “cone of concern” has shifted a bit bringing the likelihood of a stronger impact in the Central Florida area. The hurricane is expected to be over Central Florida at around 2:00 a.m. between Sunday night and Monday morning.

From the Walt Disney World website:

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 call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.

If you have products and services provided by third-party suppliers included in your vacation such as airlines, hotels, car rental agencies or vacation insurance companies, you will continue to be responsible for any non-refundable payments, as well as cancellation or change fees assessed by those suppliers. The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences.

This policy also applies to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort or Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in the event a hurricane warning is issued for those destinations.

Disney is asking guests who are not arriving before September 13 to use their online Help Center or live chat at this time to allow Cast Members to focus on those with Hurricane Irma concerns.

Hurricane Jose’s winds are currently estimated at 90mph. Jose is currently located approximately 815 miles East of the Lesser Antilles and is moving toward the west-northwest at nearly 18 mph.

Hurricane Katia remains stationary and little overall motion is anticipated through late today, but the hurricane is forecast to turn southwestward and approach the coast within the watch area late Friday or early Saturday. Maximum sustained winds remain near 80mph with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Katia could be near major hurricane strength at landfall.

UPDATE 9/6/17 5:00 p.m.:

Irma Track Update 6pm Wed

Hurricane Irma remains at a category 5 with sustained winds of up to 185 mph and moving west-northwest at 16 mph. The hurricane is now predicted to bring storm force winds to Miami at around 10:00 a.m. Sunday and into Central Florida sometime Sunday afternoon and into Monday.

Quickly strengthening Jose, following just behind Irma, has now become a hurricane. Winds are estimated at 75mph. Jose is moving toward the west-northwest at 16 mph.

The Walt Disney World Resort has created a page on their site specifically for Hurricane Irma information as well as Frequently Asked Questions regarding their hurricane policy.

Orlando International Airport Flights Affected by Irma

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida back in 1992, an anti-gouging law was passed to prevent price gouging on storm supplies such as plywood and gasoline. Anyone who suspects price gouging should report it by calling 1 (866) 9-NO-SCAM.

Hurricane Katia has now formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Katia is moving southeast near 3 mph. The state of Veracruz is under a hurricane watch.

UPDATE 9/6/17 11:00 a.m.:

Hurricane Irma’s track has shifted eastward. The Category 5 storm continues to have maximum sustained winds of 185 mph as it churns through the Caribbean islands. There is still uncertainty in exactly when and where Hurricane Irma will turn to the north. The models have the storm heading with an easterly track with the turn near Cuba or in the southern Bahamas which would take Irma along the east coast of Florida.

Tropical Storm Jose is getting closer to reaching hurricane stage.

Tropical Strom Katia in the Gulf of Mexico is now forecast to become a hurricane.

Driving home instead of waiting out the storm in Central Florida? Check out Florida 511 for traffic information and hurricane evacuation routes. All tolls have been suspended on all Florida roadways.

Staying at a Walt Disney World resort is possibly one of the safest places to be in Central Florida during a hurricane, but if you happen to be staying off-property and don’t necessarily trust where you are staying, here is the website where you can look for the Florida Shelters nearest to your location.

If you are heading to the Central Florida area for vacation, take a look at our “Preparing for Hurricane Irma at Walt Disney World” article.

UPDATE 9/6/17 8:00 a.m.:

Disney Cruise Line has canceled three cruises later this week and cut two in-progress cruises short.

Central Florida should expect tropical storm force winds topping out at 55mph sometime on Sunday into Monday based on the overnight changes to the storm. The National Hurricane Center does expect more changes to the path of the storm, and it is important to keep in mind that it’s still too early to predict where it will make landfall.

As of this morning, Disney has not issued travel waivers for Walt Disney World, nor have the airlines.

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Original Story:

This morning, as the nation watches Irma strengthen into a category 5 Hurricane, we want to make you aware of things you can do to prepare if you have a Disney vacation coming up this week. This story will be updated each time we receive an update from the National Weather Service.

Key Messages on Category 5 Hurricane #Irma for 8am EDT pic.twitter.com/7dsEmJX4yY

— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 5, 2017

With the storm looking like it may approach the United States closer to the end of this week, there have already been changes to Disney Cruise Line itineraries and here is what you can do if your plans include heading to Walt Disney World.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew affected several Disney Cruise Line vacations. Those who were at Walt Disney World at the time experienced the theme parks actually closing for a day-and-a-half, but guests were taken care of rather nicely.

First, there is a “Hurricane Policy” already in place for those visiting Walt Disney World if a hurricane warning is issued – from the official Disney website:

“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 call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.”

Flights, private transportation, and any other arrangements booked through a third-party will fall under the responsibility of the guest and not Disney. There haven’t been any reported changes to schedules at Walt Disney World as of the time of this story, but again, we will keep you informed as we hear anything.

It is extremely important to stay informed with all forecasts and the projected path of Hurricane Irma by following the National Weather Service. As of now, no schedule changes have been reported at Walt Disney World.

If the time comes that a hurricane warning is issued for dates during your trip, contact your travel agent, the Walt Disney Travel Company, or Disney Cruise Line to find out your options which can include the cancellation of your trip, rescheduling of your trip, and alternate or changed itineraries.

While the exact path of Hurricane Irma is still unknown at this point, it’s important that you stay alert and updated.

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Port Canaveral to Close Today at 3pm; Orlando International Airport to Close at 5pm Sat

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The US Coast Guard Captain of the Port (COTP) has set Hurricane Condition Yankee for Port Canaveral: Sustained gale force winds are predicted within 24 hrs. Condition Yankee marks the last chance to further prepare Port Canaveral as well as mitigate potential heavy weather threats. Only essential Port personnel will report to work.

As of 3:00 PM today, Port Canaveral will cease all operations and is closed until further notice.

For continuing updates, please monitor Port Canaveral’s Facebook Page, Twitter, and the Port Status Hotline at (321) 394-3411.

Orlando International Airport has announced that it will cease commercial airline operations at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Hurricane #Irma Update – 9/7/17 PM

Following meetings with airline partners, MCO will cease commercial ops at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, 9/9/17. pic.twitter.com/1ShX6bUCgz

— Orlando Intl Airport (@MCO) September 7, 2017

Feature Image Source: Florida Ports Council

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