Floridia Prepares For Hurricane Frances
Chris Hondros  /  Getty Images
Chris Armstrong adjusts wood on the front of his employer's store in preparation for Frances Sept. 3 in Orlando.
By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/3/2004 4:32:09 PM ET 2004-09-03T20:32:09

Hurricane Frances is not expected to reach the Orlando area until Sunday, but it has already taken a swipe at the area’s billion-dollar tourism industry.

Many of Orlando’s attractions will be closed Saturday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival. That means a loss of revenue not only for the parks but for businesses like restaurants, car rental companies, airlines and many others.  Decisions on whether parks like DisneyWorld, SeaWorld and Universal Studios will reopen Sunday have not been made. Meteorologists now predict Frances to strike Orlando Sunday, and park workers says if that’s the case it would be difficult to open that day.

Video: Tracking hurricanes This is all happening on Labor Day weekend, traditionally the third largest for park attendance each summer. Lost revenue is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. This will also mean a loss of income for many Orlando-area residents who don’t even work in the tourist trade, from restaurant waiters to taxi cab drivers and many others who are indirectly impacted by the closings.

Orlando has 120,000 hotel rooms, second in the United States only to Las Vegas. While most of those rooms are occupied with evacuees or tourists who are unable to leave, the hotels are losing revenue due to the large number of conventions and other events being cancelled.

There has been an unexpected benefit for some tourists. Crowds have been unusually light at many venues since Frances was predicted to impact the Orlando area.

Kathy Nester and her daughter are visiting Universal Studios from Boston. Their flight was cancelled so they returned to the park to find no lines for even the most popular of rides, like “The Mummy.” 

“We were very surprised to find it this way. We got off the ride and went back three more times. There was no waiting. Sometimes, it takes a few hours to get on,” says Nester.

Marcia Morris was visiting one of the parks from Philadelphia, along with 14 of her children and grandchildren.  The multi-family vacation has been in the works for more than a year, and she is disappointed she will not be able to watch her grandchildren do everything they wanted to.

“It’s upsetting since we are here with five children who want to go on the rides,” says Morris. “We’ll just hunker down. What else can we do? It’s Mother Nature.”

Queenette Santos of the Boys and Girls Club of Boston has a bigger issue on her hands. She’s chaperoning a trip for 85 underprivileged students from Orlando who received the vacation as a gift from a generous benefactor. Now, the group will ride out Hurricane Frances in their hotel rooms instead of on the rides.

“We’re going to go buy some games and toys and try to find someplace at the hotel for the kids to play,” says Santos. “Some of the young children are a little worried and they’re nervous about it.”

Once the storm has finally passed, it won’t be back to business as usual -- at least not right away. Airlines will need to get their planes back into Orlando, and that takes more than just a couple of hours. The amusement parks and nearby businesses will have to ensure their employees can make it into work since many have evacuated the area. So even if Frances takes a small physical toll on this area, it will still have battered Orlando financially.

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Video: Tourists leave


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