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Hurricane Matthew: Disney, Universal, Legoland, SeaWorld close for storm

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

As Hurricane Matthew approaches the East Coast and residents prepare for hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, theme parks in Central Florida and beyond are issuing closures.

>> Read the latest on Hurricane Matthew

Here's a wrapup of which parks have posted notices:


Disney's theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will close by 5 p.m. today and will stay closed Friday. Disney also canceled Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for Thursday.

The closures include three Disney resorts: Disney's Vero Beach Resort in Vero Beach, Florida; Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground in Orlando, Florida and Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina.

In addition to its resorts and parks, Disney announced a number of changes to four of its planned cruises.

The Disney Fantasy was scheduled to depart Saturday from Port Canaveral, Florida, for a 7-day trip through the Caribbean. The cruise was delayed by a day and shortened to 6 days.

The Disney Dream, which was expected to return Friday to Port Canaveral, has been delayed by a day while the next trip out, scheduled to take place Friday, was canceled.

The Disney Magic, scheduled to leave Friday from New York, is changing its route to take travelers through Canada to avoid Matthew.

>> Click here for the latest from Disney.


The park posted a notice on its Facebook page that for Thursday, its theme parks and CityWalk will close at 5 p.m., Wet 'n Wild will close at 2 p.m. and Halloween Horror Nights is canceled.

» Related: FPL forecasts up to 1.2 million customers could lose power

On Friday, all theme parks will be closed and Halloween Horror Nights is canceled.

Universal expects to reopen its parks Saturday.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>11:20 AM UPDATE: For your safety, please be aware of the following operational changes. Stay tuned to our Social Media...Posted by Universal Orlando Resort on Thursday, October 6, 2016

>> Click here for the latest from Universal.


Legoland Florida will operate as usual Thursday, but will be closed Friday.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>Due to Hurricane Matthew, LEGOLAND will close at 4pm on Thursday, Oct. 6 and remain closed Friday, Oct. 7. The kickoff...Posted by LEGOLAND Florida on Wednesday, October 5, 2016

>> Click here for the latest from Legoland.


SeaWorld posted on its website that it will close at 2 p.m. Thursday and be closed Friday. The park is expected to be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Hours are subject to change.

The SeaWorld call center will follow the same schedule for Thursday and Friday, and reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday.

>> Click here for the latest from SeaWorld.

Hurricane Matthew: Experts weigh in on saving family treasures

They may be a thousand miles away from the storm, but the experts at the Smithsonian Institution have some tips on how to save family treasures and important documents when Hurricane Matthew makes landfall in the U.S.

As you prepare for the storm, think about where you store family archives. Move them from areas that could flood like the basement, floor or near windows.

If they do get wet, all hope is not lost. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The National Heritage Responders' hotline can link you with trained conservators who can help. The number to call is 202-661-8068. The group has helped victims of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Haiti's earthquake in 2010 and North Dakota flooding in 2011.

FEMA has a fact sheet on trying to save any family treasures damaged by a storm or a fire. You can download the information here.

And finally, there's an app for that, available on Google Play and the App Store. The Emergency response and Salvage Mobile App has taken the place of the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. The wheel was a staple of museums, libraries and archives across the globe. It will guide collectors on how to protect and salvage different types of collections like photographs and natural history specimens.

How will Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago withstand Hurricane Matthew’s winds?

Political pundits for months have gaped this year at how Republican nominee Donald Trump has blown through the presidential cycle like a hurricane.

And the brash billionaire knows a thing or two about hurricanes, considering that for more than 30 years he has owned landmarked Mar-a-Lago on a 20-acre site that stretches between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Beach’s historic Estate Section.

The elaborate mansion-turned-private-club has weathered its share of hurricanes since it was completed in 1927. Its stucco-covered walls have remained standing after each hurricane, including the massive killer storm that wreaked havoc on South Florida’s east coast in 1928 and another that flooded the Estate Section and points south in 1947.

>>Read the latest on Hurricane Matthew

More recently, the building withstood the double whammy of back-to-back hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 and, a year later, Hurricane Wilma, which surprised locals with its strength when it barreled in from the west.

And now another hurricane, named Matthew, is headed toward The Mar-a-Lago Club, expected to skirt the Atlantic coast late today as, perhaps, a brutal Category 4 storm.

“We lost a lot of the vegetation that gave Mar-a-Lago its character,” Trump told the Palm Beach Post following Hurricane Frances. “I wasn’t there for the storm, but I’ve been told by my people there that it re-landscaped the place. There was a little flooding in some of the basements, too.”

The landscape was replanted, and today, the grounds look as lush as ever.

>> Read more trending stories  

Solid foundation

Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, the mansion built by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, in 1985 at age 39 from her foundation for a price recorded at $5 million, reportedly paying several million more for the furnishings. A decade later, after pouring millions of dollars into its restoration, he opened The Mar-A-Lago Club, retaining residential quarters to use for himself and family members.

The real estate expert couldn’t have asked for a house better prepared to endure a hurricane. Mar-a-Lago is about a rock-solid as it gets, when it comes to being storm-ready.

Married to financier E.F. Hutton when she built it, Post understood the importance of making sure her house — the second she owned in Palm Beach — would have a solid foundation for its 128 rooms.

Concrete and steel anchors the structure to the coral reef below it. Many of the walls are 3-feet thick.

“This place will not move,” Trump’s former butler, Tony Senecal, told the Palm Beach Post in 2005. ‘That’s why, during a hurricane, you’ll always see me here. If it goes, I’ll go with it.”

The house’s architecture is an elaborate mix of Spanish, Moorish, Portuguese and Venetian influences, thanks to the work of architect Marion Sims Wyeth and Broadway set designer Joseph Urban. It is said to have taken 600 workers and artisans to complete the two-year project, which broke ground in 1925.

The paint had barely had time to dry when the 1928 hurricane arrived, making landfall in September near West Palm Beach. With winds estimated at 145 mph, the storm destroyed more than 1,700 homes and generated a storm surge that caused Lake Okeechobee to burst some 45 miles away, drowning as many as 2,500 people.

In Palm Beach, the storm washed out the coastal road that hugged the beachfront between Wells Road and the Palm Beach Country Club. Today’s North Ocean Boulevard was built a bit farther to the west in that area, creating beachfront estates that line the road. Farther south, the storm also swept away much of the beach, pushing the shoreline inland by more than 200 feet near Mar-a-Lago and in front of the then-new Bath & Tennis Club.

The hurricane’s damage to Post’s home mostly was confirmed to uprooted trees, although she reported damage to an expansive Roman-style window.

Some of her neighbors on the island weren’t so lucky. At La Querida on the North End, Philadelphia department store heir Rodman Wanamaker’s home, damage was so extensive that the house required renovation; it later was bought by Joseph P. Kennedy and, much later, became known worldwide as the Winter White House used by his son, President John F. Kennedy. Purchased last year by billionaire Jane Goldman, the house is being extensively renovated.

Preparing for a storm

Today, the staff at Mar-a-Lago prepares for hurricanes in much the same way that other Palm Beach property owners do, including removing or securing outdoor furnishings and other items — such as sculptures — that could become windborne missiles during a storm. Property owners also might lower the water levels in the swimming pool and place sandbags in front of outside doors, especially important in low-lying areas. Full-house generators were rarites in Palm before the sorms of 2004 and 2005 but are now commonplace; owners often give theirs a test-run in anticipation of electricity outages following a storm.

One critical item on the to-do list at Mar-a-Lago is installing hurricane shutters on windows and doors. That’s not the case with newer houses and commercial buildings — and many renovated older ones — where strict building codes have required the installation of impact-resistant glass in windows and doors. Those codes were substantially strengthened after Hurricane Andrew decimated entire neighborhoods when it tore through Miami-Dade County in 1992.

During Trump’s restoration project in the 1990s, Mar-a-Lago’s original windows were carefully preserved and restored, including a number of elaborately gilded ones in the main room, according to architect Tamara Peacock of The Tamara Peacock Co., based in Fort Lauderdale. With a specialty in historic preservation, Peacock oversaw the award-winning — and massive — project that turned the private home into a private club, while keeping its vintage charms intact.

“We reconditioned and kept the original windows,” Peacock said Wednesday in a phone interview from North Carolina, where her company has an office in Hendersonville. “The quality of the existing windows is part of the architectural heritage.”

In the decade after the club opened, Trump added other facilities — including a grand new ballroom and the Beach Club on Mar-a-Lago’s ocean parcel. Windows in those buildings meet the new codes for impact resistance.

Peacock, who was member No. 88 to join Trump’s club, said she still marvels at Mar-a-Lago’s original construction. “I’ve seen quite a number of historic houses during my career,” she said. “It’s the most well-built.”

Hurricane Matthew: Home Depot activates disaster-response center to send supplies

Tractor-trailers loaded with supplies for areas struck by Hurricane Matthew are being dispatched from metro Atlanta.

Home Depot has activated its disaster-response command center at its headquarters in Cobb County, Georgia.

The command center opened at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and depending on the weather along the Florida and Georgia coasts, it could stay open around the clock.

>> Hurricane Matthew: Live updates as storm approaches the East Coast

Across three large conference rooms on an upper floor of the corporate headquarters in Cobb County, hundreds of eyes and ears are glued to the weather forecast.

"This morning, as we got an update on the storm's path, we quickly decided to activate our disaster-response command center," Home Depot's Stephen Holmes told WSB-TV’s Berndt Petersen.

The command center is tracking Hurricane Matthew and rushing supplies to the Florida and Georgia coasts.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew

About 350 employees are ordering tractor-trailer loads of plywood, generators, tarps and batteries, and arranging delivery to hundreds of the company's warehouse stores across the two states.

The center can run 24 hours a day if necessary. It has done this before when hurricanes made landfall either on the Atlantic or Gulf coasts.

But right now, the plan is to operate for at least the next two or three days. And that plan is in full swing.

>> Read more trending stories

“The trucks are rolling from Atlanta, from our Hurricane Distribution Center in Lakeland, Florida – feeding the stores.

"We also have a distribution center in the Northeast to make sure if we need to move product there, we can do that, as well," Holmes told Petersen.

The company says that right now, the key areas where supplies are being rushed are south Florida and Savannah.

What's open? Orlando theme parks respond as Hurricane Matthew shifts toward Florida

Orlando's WFTV is gathering information on Orlando theme parks ahead of the possible arrival of Hurricane Matthew.

  • According to Disney’s website, “Walt Disney World Resort is currently operating under normal conditions as we continue to monitor Hurricane Matthew. Recent forecasts indicate that there could be rain and wind in the Central Florida area as early as Thursday evening.” 

>> Hurricane Matthew: Live updates as storm approaches the East Coast

  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is closed through Sunday. Thursday and Friday performances of Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue and Mickey's Backyard BBQ are canceled.
  • Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Theme Park is canceled for Thursday. For rebooking, refunds and other options, call 407-566-4985, option 5, from 9 a.m.-11 p.m. ET.
  • Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park is closed Thursday and Friday.
  • Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park is open Thursday, but the Learn to Surf experience is closed. The park will be closed Friday.
  • Disney's Polynesian Village Resort has canceled Spirit of Aloha dinner shows for Thursday and Friday.
  • La Vida Health Club at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort; Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort; and Ship Shape Massage, Salon and Fitness at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts will be closed from noon Thursday through Saturday evening.
  • Characters in Flight at Disney Springs is closed through Sunday.
  • The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has canceled the 2016 Disney Cross Country Classic and Baseball Canada's games and practice sessions for Friday and Saturday. Baseball Canada's Thursday game has been rescheduled from 1 p.m. to 10 a.m.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew

  • SeaWorld and Discovery Cove will be open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday closed Friday. SeaWorld will be open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday with normal Spooktacular activities from noon-7 p.m. Please check the website for up-to-date information. Aquatica Orlando will be closed Thursday and Friday.
  • Universal Studios representative said the park is “currently planning to remain open as scheduled through the week. We are obviously monitoring the weather and will always make the safety of our guests and team members our top priority.” Please check the website for up-to-date information.

>> Read more trending stories

  • LEGOLAND Florida Resort will operate as scheduled Thursday, but LEGOLAND Florida Theme Park may close early due to the approach of Hurricane Matthew. The theme park will remain closed Friday, but LEGOLAND Hotel will be open to admit arriving guests. They expect to operate as scheduled Saturday but will continue to monitor the storm’s projected path and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be closed Thursday and Friday. Visitor Complex officials anticipate reopening at 9 a.m. Saturday after a thorough assessment of the property has been completed.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Hurricane Matthew: 9 things to do for your family's hurricane plan

1. Determine your risk: It is important to stay informed during severe weather.

National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb posted a blog in June with some interesting comments he hears every year, including, “I’ve lived here for decades and we’ve never had a hurricane. I figure I’m good.”

What do they say afterward? “No one told me it could be this bad.”

>> Hurricane Matthew: Live updates as storm approaches the East Coast

2. Develop an evacuation plan: Review the FEMA evacuation guidelines here.   

3. Get an insurance check-up: AAA suggests that you round up your recordsfigure out flood insurance and ensure you're covered. Also, make an inventory of your assets and their values.

4. Shop for supplies: You'll need canned food, bottled water and batteries. Click here for a slideshow shopping list of things your family could use during severe weather.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew

5. Strengthen your home: Improve the strength of your roof deck attachment, install hurricane-rated window shutters, replace a standard garage door with a hurricane-rated garage door, and secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. Read more preparedness tips here.

6. Keep a list of emergency contact information: Learn more about making a family emergency communication plan here.

7. Fill up your gas tank.

>> Read more trending stories

8. Turn on your TV/radio or check your city/county website to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

9. Before the power goes out: Fill your bathtub with water unless you have young children. The water can be used for drinking, washing and flushing the toilet. Water supplies are often compromised by hurricanes and either become undrinkable or stop flowing.

Photos: Hurricane Matthew

Here's how to keep your pets safe during Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane season is underway. As Hurricane Matthew makes its way toward the southeast coast, here are some tips to keep your pets safe.

>> Read more trending stories

Prepare ahead for safety and comfort of your pet

Do not leave pets at home, especially if you live in an evacuation area. Even if they survive the storm, they might flee a damaged home and be lost in the chaos.

Where to take your pet

It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Here are some options:

Related: Hurricane Matthew: Live updates as storm approaches the East Coast

Hotels: Contact hotels and motels outside your area in advance to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask whether “no pet” policies could be waived. Keep a list of “pet-friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information. For an impending storm, call ahead for reservations. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following websites to find pet-friendly lodgings.

Friends and relatives: Ask friends, relatives or others outside the area if they can shelter your animals. Make arrangements with neighbors to help evacuate pets in the event you can’t get home.

Pet-friendly shelters: Find out if pets will be permitted at an evacuation shelter.

Related: Photos: 14 essential tips to keep your pets safe during hurricane season

Other tips

Vaccinate your pet

If you haven’t already done so, get those shots now. Infectious diseases can become a big threat after a disaster.

Get your pet an ID tag

If a pet becomes lost or escapes during the confusion of an evacuation, proper identification will increase the chances of a safe return home. Tag should include your cell number and, if space allows, the number of an out-of-town contact. Consider having your pet tattooed or ‘microchipped.’

Get a pet carrier

You will need a pet carrier or cage for each dog, cat, bird or small animal. Make sure it is large enough for each pet to stand up and turn around comfortably.

Have photos of your pet

Take clear, color photos (frontal, left and right sides) of you with your pet, and store these with your pet’s license, medical records and ownership papers in a waterproof carrier to take with you. Include pictures of the pet with you to help with any challenge to your ownership. Take photos with your cellphone so they’re stored there as well.

Set up a pet disaster kit

Put together a pet disaster kit with medications and medical records in a waterproof container, a leash and collar or harness for each pet, non-spill food and water dishes, a 14-day supply of food, water in non-breakable containers, a manual can opener, grooming supplies, your pet’s blanket and a favorite toy, cleanser and disinfectant to handle waste, newspapers or litter, paper towels and plastic bags.

President Obama declares emergency in Florida

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