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Disney World to reopen Friday after Hurricane Ian closure

Universal Orlando Resort also said a Friday reopening is expected “as conditions permit”

Guests depart the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World before the park closed early to accommodate an special event on Tuesday. (Joe Burbank/AP)

Walt Disney World will reopen its theme parks gradually Friday after a two-day closure due to Hurricane Ian, which brought flooding to Central Florida after lashing the southwest part of the state.

The resort said Thursday afternoon that operations at its four theme parks and Disney Springs, a shopping and entertainment center, would resume “in a phased approach” starting Friday. Hours will be updated online later Thursday, a statement said.

“We continue to closely monitor weather conditions as we assess the impact of Hurricane Ian on our property,” the statement said. “While theme parks and many operating areas remain closed to guests today, we anticipate weather conditions to improve this evening.”

Hurricane Ian live updates

Disney’s website was still not selling tickets to its four parks for Friday as of Thursday afternoon.

Hotels at the sprawling complex near Orlando were open to current visitors Thursday, though no new check-ins were allowed. New guests will be allowed to check in starting at 3 p.m. Friday.

The company warned online that dining options at its hotels would vary, “and in some cases may be very limited.” Character dining experiences are canceled Thursday, and parts of some hotels will stay closed through Friday.

Hotel guests — including Disney bloggers — posted photos of costumed characters mingling with kids in hotels, watching cartoons on lobby TVs and “working” at desks. Some videos also showed post-storm cleanup.

Hurricane Ian came ashore in Southwest Florida as a strong Category 4 storm Wednesday, causing “historic” damage to the state, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). It reached Central Florida as a much weaker Category 1 hurricane, but still caused widespread flooding in Orange County, one of two counties Disney World straddles.

County officials said the area could continue to see sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles an hour Thursday, with gusts up to 50 miles an hour. Tropical storm-force winds were expected to leave by 1 a.m. Friday. Between eight and 12 inches of rain have fallen in the county, and up to 16 inches in some areas.

More than 2.6 million people statewide were without power Thursday.

7 things to know about travel during hurricane season

Orlando International Airport remained shut down Thursday and said in an update on Twitter that all roads leading to the facility were closed due to flooding. Commercial operations were expected to start again sometime Friday.

“Travelers are advised to contact their airlines directly for information about their specific flights,” the update said.

Other Florida theme parks remained closed Thursday, with some announcing plans not to reopen until Saturday. Those include Busch Gardens in Tampa and SeaWorld in Orlando. Legoland in Winter Haven said it would extend its closure through Friday as workers “assess damage and clean up from the storm.”

Universal Orlando Resort said on its website that a Friday reopening is expected “as conditions permit.” Officials did not answer a question about photos on social media that appeared to show exterior damage to a Jurassic Park ride.

“As always, the safety of our guests and team members is our top priority,” Universal Orlando spokeswoman Alyson Sologaistoa said in an email Thursday. “With that as our focus, we remain closed today as we follow our procedures and conduct detailed inspections across our entire destination at this time. Stay tuned for any updates.”

The Atlantic hurricane season

The latest: The 2022 season started out slow, but has rapidly intensified this fall with conditions prime for storms. Fiona brought severe flooding to Puerto Rico before making landfall in Canada, and now we’re tracking Hurricane Ian as it heads for Florida. For the seventh year in a row, hurricane officials expect an above-average season of hurricane activity.

Tips for preparing: We rounded up seven safety tips to help you get ready for hurricanes. Here’s some other guidance about keeping your phone charged and useful in dangerous weather, and what to know about flood insurance.

Understanding climate change: It’s not just you — hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the U.S. more frequently in recent years. And last summer alone, nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster. Read more about how climate change is fueling severe weather events.