All eyes were on Florida the past few days as Hurricane Irma did widespread damage throughout the state. We left our home in Delray Beach (south Florida), Wednesday evening and headed up to our apartment just outside the gates of Walt Disney World in Orlando.
As the forecast continued to show the storm taking over the state, Disney, Universal and SeaWorld all decided to proactively close early on Saturday (9/9) and close completely on Sunday (9/10) and Monday (9/11).
With thousands of vacation plans suddenly canceled, wait times in the parks were low, so we took advantage of it before hunkering down waiting for Irma to come knocking at our door.
Our first stop was Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Friday evening. A normal hour plus wait time for Toy Story Midway Mania was just ten minutes.
Same over at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Like the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror uses the “13 minutes” code to mean there’s no line, come on in… if you dare.
Hurricane Irma also allowed visitors to Hollywood Studios to get a glimpse of what’s behind the numerous construction walls which seem to be everywhere as they work feverishly to build out the new Star Wars and Toy Story lands.
Construction scrims were removed from scaffolding:
And scrims were removed from fencing in the area now known as Grand Avenue, the former Muppet’s Courtyard and Streets of New York area. With the screen gone, you can see into the Grand Avenue area and the new home to the Baseline Tap House – a new bar – which is taking over the former Writer’s Stop.
A sad Miss Piggy, who once was the center of a fountain, then the centerpiece of a planter, is now the centerpiece of this monstrosity. Word is that the fountain will be returning, making her one happy pig, I’m sure.
Over in Echo Lake, water was drained:
On Saturday, as some of the first bands of wind and rain started to make their way into Orlando, we hit up Magic Kingdom early in the day, where the parking lot at the Transportation & Ticket Center was nearly empty. So empty in fact, at noon, we were only 10 rows of cars from the entrance.
Signs greeted visitors as they entered the park letting them know they would be closing promptly at 9pm and the Happily Ever After fireworks show was canceled. While on the Monorail, announcements were made that all Disney transportation would cease operation precisely at 10pm.
As we entered the Magic Kingdom, there were no lines at the turnstiles:
Main Street USA had all the flags and banners removed from atop buildings and on lampposts, except for the pumpkin decorations in place for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party:
A normally crowded central hub around Cinderella’s Castle was eerily empty:
Outdoor seats at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café were taken indoors:
And in a sure sign that a storm was coming, Peter Pan’s Flight only had a 25-minute wait!
While in the park, notifications on the My Disney Experience app were updating us on abbreviated park hours and the two-day closing, as well as a reminder to stock up on snacks if you’re staying at one of the Disney resorts.
Now that the storm has passed, photos people are posting on the various Disney World Facebook pages are showing minimal damage to the property with trees and limbs down but nothing major.
Take a walk through the Magic Kingdom in this short video taken hours before the park closed for the hurricane: