Southbound travelers keeping an eye on Matthew’s track

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — As southern states brace for Hurricane Matthew’s arrival, people up north are hoping to get in their travel plans before the storm hits.

The powerful storm caused heavy damage in Haiti before making its way to the Bahamas on Wednesday. It’s being blamed for at least 11 deaths as it slowly makes its way through the Caribbean on the way to Florida.

There’s still uncertainty as to how hard Florida will get hit by the hurricane, but to be safe, state officials have ordered residents along the eastern coast and barrier islands to evacuate. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also announced plans Wednesday to evacuate a quarter million people, not counting tourists, from its coastline.

“We’re not on the coast. We’re going right to Disney,” said Mike Duda of Westerly. “We’re going to meet our grandkids and my daughter and son-in-law right there. They’re flying out of Boston.”

Duda and his wife Kathy were set to depart Wednesday from T.F. Green Airport on an 11:30 a.m. flight to Orlando.

Walt Disney World said on their website that all of its parks are “currently operating under normal conditions” as officials continue to monitor the storm.

Dick Bauer of Connecticut was headed south for a business function, and he and his coworkers made some changes after seeing the forecast.

Track Matthew: Interactive Hurricane Tracker »
Track Matthew: Interactive Hurricane Tracker »

“In fact, we moved our flight up,” he said. “We were going to go tomorrow, and we decided today was probably the safer bet, to be sure we got there into time for the weekend.”

The group had to switch airlines, at a greater cost, but Bauer said it was worth it having had past experience with Florida storms.

“It was in Central Florida so it was rainy and windy. It wasn’t horrible,” Bauer recalled. “I think the coast is a little more vulnerable. So we’re hoping being inland a little bit is going to be safer for us”

Despite Matthew’s potential impacts, the Dudas said they’re just happy to see their grandchildren.

“So everything’s clear for today, tonight, and maybe a little rain. That’s alright. Maybe the park will be a little bit empty,” Mike said through laughter.

Travelers shouldn’t have much of an issue before Matthew makes landfall, but delays and cancellations could be a problem for the return trip.

Cruise line passengers on the other hand, are already seeing their travel plans unravel.

Amy Sayler of Warwick is in Florida and had planned to take a ladies-only Bahamian cruise with her friends.

“I actually have friends from out of the country. One of my friends is here from Brazil. I have a friend here from Toronto,” she said, who had been planning this cruise for a long time.

On Wednesday, Sayler received a letter from Carnival, explaining that Port Canaveral was closing and talked of refunds and a shortened voyage.

To make matters more difficult, the Cocoa Beach hotel the women were staying at was part of an evacuation.

Tourists are now scrambling for reservations in Orlando, “we have until Friday,” said Sayler. “And if they have a cancellation, we can stay. Otherwise, we have to find another hotel.”

Sayler is set to fly back up north on Sunday.

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