Disney World offers Floridians fleeing Hurricane Idalia and its aftermath 50% off hotels – as resort remains open and kids are seen enjoying the empty park amid devastation

Walt Disney World in Florida is offering discounted stays and waiving cancellation fees for those affected by Hurricane Idalia.

The resort announced on Tuesday that there would be 50 percent off new hotel bookings for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night made by Floridians fleeing the storm, or first responders helping with the evacuations.

The company also said they were waiving cancellation and change fees for those who had already booked to arrive from Monday until next Monday, September 4.

Idalia had weakened to a tropical storm by 5pm ET on Wednesday, and at 8pm was on the coast of South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 65mph.

A family braves the rain from Hurricane Idalia at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on Wednesday

A family braves the rain from Hurricane Idalia at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on Wednesday

Intrepid Disney fans are pictured on Wednesday taking advantage of the reduced crowds at Disney World

Intrepid Disney fans are pictured on Wednesday taking advantage of the reduced crowds at Disney World 

Idalia made landfall at 7:45am ET on Wednesday south of Tallahassee, in Taylor County, with winds of 125mph as a Category 4 storm.

Two people are known to have died as a result of the storm – both of them in weather-related car crashes in the early hours of Wednesday.

About 280,000 customers lacked power Wednesday afternoon in Florida, the vast majority of them in the Big Bend region where Idalia made landfall, according to PowerOutage.us.

About 175,000 customers were without power in Georgia as the storm’s center approached the Savannah area.

Two hundred miles south of the storm’s path, some were braving the heavy rainfall in the Orlando area to visit Disney World.

People are seen on Wednesday braving the rain in Florida to visit Disney World

People are seen on Wednesday braving the rain in Florida to visit Disney World

Typhoon Lagoon water park was closed on Wednesday, as well as Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf – but all other sites were operating as usual, and images shared on social media showed poncho-wearing Disney fans braving the deluge to take advantage of the abnormally-empty park.

Orlando airport remained open, but Tampa airport was closed.

Airports in Florida which shut are now planning to reopen.

The Federal Aviation Administration cautioned on social media Wednesday that the storm is causing flight cancellations and that severe weather can affect flights beyond the immediate area.

Tampa International Airport announced it was reopening to arriving flights Wednesday afternoon and that departing flights and normal operations will resume early Thursday.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport said it was reopening Wednesday afternoon and that flights would resume Thursday.

And Sarasota Bradenton International Airport reopened Wednesday morning.

Florida had feared the worst while still recovering from last year’s Hurricane Ian, which hit the heavily populated Fort Myers area, leaving 149 dead in the state.

Unlike that storm, Idalia blew into a very lightly inhabited area known as Florida’s ‘nature coast’ – one of the state’s most rural regions that lies far from crowded metropolises or busy tourist areas and features millions of acres of undeveloped land.

That doesn’t mean that it didn’t do major damage.

Rushing water covered streets near the coast, unmoored small boats and nearly a half-million customers in Florida and Georgia lost power.

In Perry, the wind blew out store windows, tore siding off buildings and overturned a gas station canopy.

A gas station in Perry, Florida, is seen with the roof blown over following Hurricane Idalia

A gas station in Perry, Florida, is seen with the roof blown over following Hurricane Idalia

An airboat passes through flood waters in the downtown area of Crystal River

An airboat passes through flood waters in the downtown area of Crystal River

Kayakers paddle along in flood waters in Crystal River on Wednesday

Kayakers paddle along in flood waters in Crystal River on Wednesday

An aerial view of burned rubble is seen where a house formerly stood in the community of Signal Cove in Hudson, Florida. A power transformer exploded during the storm

An aerial view of burned rubble is seen where a house formerly stood in the community of Signal Cove in Hudson, Florida. A power transformer exploded during the storm

A shelter in Winter Park, Orlando, is readied for those evacuating on Tuesday

A shelter in Winter Park, Orlando, is readied for those evacuating on Tuesday

Heavy rains partially flooded Interstate 275 in Tampa and wind toppled power lines onto the northbound side of Interstate 75 just south of Valdosta, Georgia.

Storm surge could rise as high as 16 feet in some places.

Some counties implemented curfews to keep residents off roads.

Less than 20 miles south of where Idalia made landfall, businesses, boat docks and homes in Steinhatchee, Florida, were swallowed up by water surging in from Deadman’s Bay.

Police officers blocked traffic into the coastal community of more than 500 residents known for fishing and foresting industries.

State officials, 5,500 National Guardsman and rescue crews were in search-and-recovery mode, inspecting bridges, clearing toppled trees and looking for anyone in distress.

Because of the remoteness of the Big Bend area, search teams may need more time to complete their work compared with past hurricanes in more urban areas, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management.

‘You may have two houses on a five-mile road so it’s going to take some time,’ he said.

But he added that most people appear to have heeded the evacuation warnings.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia ‘an unprecedented event’ since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend.

source: dailymail.co.uk