Officials at Orlando International Airport are ceasing all commercial operations for the duration of Hurricane Ian.
Initially, officials had told all nonessential employees to plan to go home at noon on Wednesday. But as conditions worsened in Central Florida from Hurricane Ian, those workers were all sent home at 10:30 a.m. instead. All flights have been canceled for the airport.
Kevin Thibault, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, announced the change at a news conference in Orlando. He said it’s unlikely the airport will reopen before Friday. He said the airport will still have emergency operations in place.
Thibault stressed the airport is not set up to serve as a shelter or haven, and he does not want civilians amassed at the airport.
He said normal airport operations would resume only after the storm has safely passed and after sustained winds in the area decrease to less than 40 miles per hour.
All flights have also been canceled Wednesday and Thursday at Orlando Sanford International Airport.
Meanwhile, Kennedy Space Center has closed its Visitor Center as Brevard County is under a tornado watch. The attraction on Florida’s east coast had planned to stay open Wednesday and close Thursday, but conditions forced a change in plans. Refunds will be offered to those who had reservations to visit the center on Wednesday.
Officials are advising all on the coast in Central Florida to stay off the water, even as some continue to take out boats and try to surf on the water.
Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall Wednesday in Charlotte County and start to track further north. Current forecasts show the storm system, now a Category 4 hurricane, will diminish in intensity as it crosses over land, but the storm may still deliver hurricane-force winds to the Greater Orlando area.