Hurricane Idalia continued on Tuesday to swirl towards Florida, a state that is home to numerous theme parks.
In an afternoon advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it expected the large storm to bring “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions” to parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast later in the day and Wednesday. Its sustained winds had reached a maximum of 100 miles per hour, according to the NHC.
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Officials believe Idalia will come onshore Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend area as a “major” hurricane, something that they anticipate will happen after “additional strengthening.” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has put just under 50 counties — including those with theme parks — under a state of emergency as of Tuesday afternoon.
The companies that run theme parks in the state are watching the trajectory of the currently Category 2 storm.
A few major Orlando theme parks have said their hours remained unaffected. Meanwhile, one in Tampa has closed its doors temporarily for safety.
Park operations and hours at Universal Orlando Resort “are continuing as normal,” the theme park said late Monday afternoon.
Walt Disney World Resort gave a similar update on its operations late Tuesday morning, saying they were running normally. The park, located in Orange and Osceola Counties, has implemented some measures to give guests flexibility in connection to their stays at the resort.
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For guests currently staying at the resort, Disney World said they could be eligible for a discounted rate if they need to adjust their stay so that it goes through the end of the month due to hurricane-related travel issues, according to the park’s website. For individuals checking in through Sept. 5, it will not issue fees for making changes or cancelations.
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Disney did ask Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground guests to take a few extra steps, requesting that they “remove and store all outside items, including decor, and take in camper awnings” by a certain time Tuesday evening.
SeaWorld Orlando is another attraction located in the Orlando area. On its website, it listed its park as opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. for Tuesday through Thursday.
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The theme park, zoo and aquarium told FOX Business it “continues to carefully monitor weather conditions and forecasts” and will “take all necessary precautions to protect the safety of guests, employees and the animals who live in our park.”
In response to the hurricane, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay said it would shutter earlier than normal on Tuesday. That happened at 3 p.m.
“Precautions are in place following the park’s comprehensive weather preparedness plan to ensure the safety of our animals and ambassadors during this time,” Busch Gardens Tampa Bay said on social media. “Guests are encouraged to check our website and follow our social media channels for updates on park reopening.”
Some of the animals Busch Gardens has at the park include elephants, penguins, lions and rhinos, according to its website.
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It intends to start accepting guests again Thursday, per the social media post.
The NHC projected Tampa Bay could get hit with four to seven feet worth of storm surge from the approaching hurricane.
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