Walt Disney World will close ahead of Hurricane Matthew at 5 p.m. Thursday and remain closed Friday, officials for the Florida theme parks said.
Included in the closures are theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Universal Orlando and Sea World also planned to close at 5 p.m. and the Orlando airport planned to cease operations at 8 p.m., ABC News reported.
The Category 4 storm hurricane was predicted to strengthen to Category 5 before reaching landfall in Florida at 2 p.m. Thursday, ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo said.
Disney World hasn't decided whether it will open Saturday, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Halloween events were canceled, but the Epcot Food and Wine Festival event starting at 5 p.m. was planned to go on.
Disney World employees will have to use paid time off, a union official told the newspaper, while workers at Universal who were scheduled to work will get paid.
Guests were evacuated from resorts including Fort Wilderness Campground, the Polynesian Bungalows, and the Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas, USA Today reported.
Disney World has closed only four times since its opening in 1971 — for Hurricane Floyd in 1999, for Hurricane Frances in 1999, for Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, and during a brief evacuation on 9/11.
Guests can get information about cancellation policies on the Disney website.
President Obama declared a state of emergency Thursday in Florida, ordering federal aid to respond to the storm in more than two dozen counties in the state.
Elsewhere, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg encouraged residents to leave town in advance of the storm as the National Weather Service predicted worse flooding than last year's October storm that closed the city for several days, The Associated Press reported. Flash-flood watches were issued for the entire South Carolina coast.
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