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Floyd Derails Tourists’ Plans

September 14, 1999

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Hurricane Floyd messed up the vacation plans of thousands of Florida tourists, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights Tuesday and prompting Walt Disney World to close early because of the weather for the first time in its 28-year history.

Hotels along the coast also shut down, forcing tourists to head for airports or shelters.

Outside Orlando’s Walt Disney World before it shut it gates, Jacobia Reynolds of Ridgefield, Conn., said she and her husband had been saving for years to go to Florida’s No. 1 tourist attraction.

``We’re going to have a good time until they kick us out,″ Mrs. Reynolds said. ``We’re going to stay in our room. What choice do we have?″

Her 8-year-old daughter, Gina, said: ``I’ve never seen a hurricane except on TV and I’m a little scared. But I want to go to Disney.″

Elsewhere around the Orlando area, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios and SeaWorld also closed. Many of the Orlando-area attractions were built in the past two decades and had never faced a major hurricane before.

At Miami International Airport, many disheveled tourists were facing a second night of sleeping on the floor. Many were angry and uncertain about their next move.

``It’s absolutely appalling. There was no information,″ said Dolores Pearson of Ireland, who missed a connection to London and spent Monday night in the airport. ``Nobody cared we were stuck. It was complete chaos.″

She and her husband were among about 500 passengers stranded at the airport, where most flights were canceled.

Marguerite Previlon was returning from Haiti with her mother when they got stuck in Miami. It was her mother’s first visit to the United States.

``I can’t sleep here two nights,″ Ms. Previlon said, her 65-year-old mother resting on the floor next to her. ``I don’t know anything about Miami; I’m from Boston.″

At the Orlando International Airport, closed for the first time ever, a couple were laughing and videotaping each other at an airport bar.

``We didn’t want to go back to Minneapolis anyway,″ said JoAnn Fields, 18. ``I’ve never seen a hurricane before. Maybe we’ll just stick it out here at the airport.″

Some hotels were already full with tourists, even before the evacuees arrived. Wilson Perry, general manager at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, about five miles from Disney World, said he was fully booked. The inn is a pet-friendly hotel, and many people were arriving with their animals.

Perry said he wouldn’t turn anyone away once the storm hits. ``We will put people in the lobby if we have to,″ he said.

In Daytona Beach, bridges were closed, and most of the major hotels in the area shut down. The city is the home of the Daytona International Speedway and the self-proclaimed ``World’s Most Famous Beach,″ where visitors can drive on the sand.

St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, founded in 1565, was a ghost town, its shops and attractions closed. Its tourist attractions include a 17th-century Spanish fortress.

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