Walt Disney World closes for just fourth time ever as Hurricane Matthew nears

Walt Disney World will close its parks for just the fourth time since its opening as Hurricane Matthew threatens to make landfall in Florida late Thursday night.

Since opening in 1971, the park has only been closed three times since, all in anticipation of hurricanes.

Disney World shuttered its gates on Sept. 15, 1999, for Hurricane Floyd; Sept. 4 and 5, 1999, for Hurricane Frances and Sept. 26, 2004, for Hurricane Jeanne. It was also evacuated in a brisk 30 minutes on 9/11, but the parks were not closed beforehand.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World said, "Based on the most recent forecasts for Hurricane Matthew, Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will all be closed today by 5 p.m., and will remain closed through Fri., Oct. 7."

— NBC News' Alex Preston and CNBC's Mike Newberg contributed to this report.