Schoolteacher Alex Dollin of Dix Hills was at Disney World with his wife, seated Tuesday afternoon in the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents show, when an unusual statement came on their iPhones.
Looming hurricane. Park closing imminently.
So the couple were stuck in central Florida Wednesday as Hurricane Ian made landfall — having arrived this past Saturday, the couple planned to fly home Thursday, but the flight to Kennedy Airport was canceled.
Until the hurricane passes, they will stay cooped up at Disney's Polynesian Village on lockdown.
"Right now just watching Star Wars movies," Dollin texted. "And watching the storm outside our window."
The category 4 hurricane's eye hit the Gulf Coast just after 3 p.m. Wednesday on a Florida barrier island west of Fort Myers. Wind speeds were clocked at up to 150 mph.
The storm — among the most powerful storms to batter the United States in decades — was “causing catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding” in southwest Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
In Port Charlotte, along Florida's Gulf Coast, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency room in a hospital as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.
Law enforcement officials in Fort Myers received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. And more than 2 million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity, according to the PowerOutage.us site.
Dollin, 35, was due back Friday at the high school where he works in the Oyster Bay district. His students will have to make do with a substitute teacher for yet another day.
"Hoping to leave Saturday now," he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said New York’s National Guard sent two CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters and 11 troops to Jacksonville, Florida, to help with Ian recovery.
They left from Army Aviation Support Facility 3 at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport, Hochul said in a news release Wednesday.
"We are grateful for the heroism of these New Yorkers who are answering the call of duty, as well as for the extraordinary efforts of all first responders currently working to provide aid and support to the people of Florida," the governor said. "New York will always stand up and help our neighbors in a time of need."
Elizabeth F. Flagler, a spokeswoman for PSEG Long Island, said in an email: “As of noon today, all mutual aid requests coming from Florida had been fulfilled by other entities.”
Joe LaSpina and his father, John, own five bowling alleys, including two on Long Island and two in the Tampa Bay area of Florida — Maple Lanes Countryside in Clearwater and Orange Bowl Lanes in Lakeland.
The Florida bowling alleys employ about 120 people, said Joe LaSpina, 44, of Rockville Centre.
“[We told them to] go home. Be safe. Lock up. We sent everyone home yesterday. Closed early,” he said.
The LaSpinas and their employees have prepared for hurricanes before but Hurricane Ian is different, he said.
“This one feels serious. We’re taking it seriously, not that we weren’t taking the other ones seriously … the location [of Ian] seems too close for comfort to where we are,” he said.
The bowling alleys contain a lot of electrical equipment, including TV monitors and computer systems, so staff disconnected everything before closing Tuesday, he said.
“We raised whatever we could off the ground and then covered as much as we could internally, just in case water comes in from the top,” Joe LaSpina said.
Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said "as of right now" forecasters are not expecting any direct effects on Long Island from Ian but there will be chances for increased winds Sunday and Monday along the north and south shores.
"There's a lot of time, and this can change," he said.
There could also be rainfall from the storm's remnants on Sunday and Monday, and it might arrive earlier.
For Dollin and his wife, the delays come with a silver lining.
"We were saying, we wished we could have taken a longer trip anyway, honestly, and so I was rushing back to be there for Friday, which, once that was beyond our control, and they canceled our flight, and we kind of realized this was gonna be a reality, then we just got comfortable with it, and we're like, hey, you know, maybe on Friday, the weather will be good, we can get an extra park day in."
He added: "For us, it's not so bad, even being stuck in a hotel room where we can watch movies is still a vacation for us."
With Tory N. Parrish and AP