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published on August 30, 2019 - 11:27 AM
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(AP) — The Force is strong with Disney and Star Wars, but it may be no match for Hurricane Dorian.

Expected to make landfall in Florida early next week, Dorian couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for Walt Disney World: It just opened “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” its most anticipated major new addition in decades.

On Thursday, the day the Star Wars land opened, visitors waited for hours to get on the “Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run” ride under blue skies and a bright sun.

But the weather was expected to deteriorate each day as Dorian approaches.

As of 11 a.m. EDT Friday the storm was just 1 mile per hour below the 111 mph (178 kph) threshold for becoming a major hurricane. Meteorologists expect it to become a major storm later in the day and keep growing until it becomes a Category 4 intense hurricane.

Dorian is forecast to hit southern Florida with winds around 140 mph late Monday or early Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. There’s increasing talk among experts about the possibility, still unlikely, of a Category 5 storm with winds of 155 mph or more.

“It is the perfect storm,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., an Ohio-based consulting firm. “Here they’ve been waiting to open this — the attraction was delayed from the earlier part of the season — and they finally get situated to get it opened and they have a hurricane.”

In the long run, it may be just a blip for Disney, but the storm’s impact for the week could cost Disney $60 million to $90 million as locals stay away to make hurricane preparations and out-of-town tourists cancel their reservations, Speigel said.

Disneyland in California also opened a Star Wars land earlier this summer, and that too had smaller crowds than expected.

In an earnings report earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that some people had stayed away from Disneyland out fear there would be huge crowds at the Star Wars land. That contributed to a 3% dip in attendance at U.S parks for the third quarter.

The Star Wars land wasn’t the only thing opening this week at Disney World.

The resort was kicking off its annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Thursday and its annual Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party is revving up.

Before Hurricane Dorian started menacing Florida, Jessica Armesto and her 1-year-old daughter, Mila, planned to go to the Halloween party and attend a breakfast with Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy at Disney World. Instead, Armesto now plans to be sheltered at her mother’s hurricane-resistant house in Miami with a kitchen full of nonperishable foods in case the power goes out.


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