Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Airlines, parks shut down in Fla.

Thousands of tourists stranded

The Associated Press

        DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — 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.

        Delta Air Lines has canceled all flights to and from the Florida cities of Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando and West Palm Beach. Cincinnati's dominant carrier also has canceled service to Savannah, Ga., and might stop service to Charleston, S.C., through today.

        Erlanger-based Comair Inc. also has shut down its Orlando hub, canceling about 50 flights, mostly to Florida cities.

        With the last parts of their journeys canceled, some travelers connecting through the airlines' shared Cincinnati hub found themselves stranded. Most simply turned around and went home, said Ted Bushelman, spokesman for Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        American Airlines canceled nearly 400 domestic and international flights through Miami, one of the carrier's four main hubs.

        Tourists at Miami International Airport faced a second night of sleeping on the floor as what hotels remained open filled to capacity.

        “It was complete chaos,” said Dolores Pearson, an Irish tourist who missed a connection to London on a four-month trip around the world. “It was a really nice trip — until we got here.”

        Outside Walt Disney World before it shut its 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.

        Enquirer reporter Amy Higgins contributed to this report.

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