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Florida opens hotel rooms, gates to Florence evacuees

FILE – In this April 16, 2017 file photo, the Blue Angels, the U. S. Navy’s legendary flight performance squadron, fly in formation over the Castle and the “ners” statue at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Fla. Florida emergency officials said Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, they had no way of tracking how many residents of the Carolinas had escaped to Florida this week. But some of the hotels offer special discounts for refugees and Florida ports will open their terminals cruise ships that unexpected ports of call.(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

ORLANDO, Florida. – With Hurricane Florence rolled in the direction of their home near Wilmington, North Carolina, Allison Hales of the Jordan, and her husband on board their home, picked up the car and went on our way to Walt Disney World in Florida with their two teenage children.

“When we decided where to go, everyone was to the west, but we decided that we should go as far south as possible, that is strange since Florida gets hurricanes,” said Jordan, who works as a preschool director in Burgaw, North Carolina.

Long accustomed to its residents evacuated to the north or to other parts of the state when hurricanes threaten Florida in the unusual position this week of the reception diverted cruise ships and a hotel room seekers, in the hope of escaping the wrath of Hurricane Florence, which made landfall Friday morning in North Carolina.

State emergency officials said Thursday they had no way of tracking how many residents of the Carolinas had escaped to Florida this week. But Florida hotels offer special discounts for hurricane evacuees and Florida ports will open their terminals cruise ships that unexpected ports of call.

Port Canaveral along Florida’s Space Coast had two ships visiting unexpectedly when Hurricane Florence made it impossible to stop in Bermuda.

New York-based Norwegian Escape and its 4,200 passengers stopped in the port Tuesday. Royal Caribbean’s Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas and the 2,000 passengers was diverted to Port Canaveral on Wednesday, and I was ready to leave on Friday. The passengers of both ships took trips to theme parks in Orlando, local beaches and the nearby Kennedy Space Center.

The reversal in the fortunes in a state that was ravaged by Hurricane Irma of last year, and threatened by the Hurricane Matthew last year is not lost in Port Canaveral CEO John Murray.

“The last two years we had our ships go to other ports, but this year it’s just the opposite for us,” Murray said.

Hotelier Harris Rosen was offering steep discounts on its nine hotels in the Orlando area for the Hurricane Florence evacuees. The prices ranged from $59 to $79 per night depending on the hotel, and all pets were welcome. Rosen is the offer of the hurricane discounts for dozens of years, but they are usually used by Floridians to escape to the coasts.

“I get more hugs and kisses during the hurricane season,” Rosen said.

A monorail towards the Magic Kingdom, Jordan said by phone that it was weird, it goes to “the most magical place on Earth” when she didn’t know what was in store of Hurricane Florence.

“I feel guilty, but we try to make the best of the situation,” Jordan said. “We are looking for Disney magic, even if we don’t know what we’ll find when we go back and we don’t know when we go back home. We are here even though his heart is in North Carolina.”

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP .

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For the latest news on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes

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