Rhode Island couple stranded in Florida as Hurricane Matthew strikes


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As Hurricane Matthew is poised to strike the coast of Florida, vacationers are scrambling to exit before it makes landfall. It was too late for Marc and Jane Gauthier from Lincoln, Rhode Island; the couple didn’t make it out of Florida in time.

“We weren’t expecting this, we were planning on coming home tomorrow,” Marc Gauthier said in a Skype interview with Eyewitness News from his Orlando hotel room. “It might be a sleepless night.”

The Gauthiers, both lifelong Lincoln residents, were in Florida celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in the week leading up to the storm. Thursday, they received news from Southwest Airlines that their flight back to Rhode Island was canceled, and they likely wouldn’t be returning until Sunday.

“A little nervous,” Gauthier admitted, though he said he was grateful to have a hotel room to ride out the storm. Other travelers weren’t so lucky as flights were canceled to and from Florida on Thursday.

Orlando is not in the evacuation zone, unlike eastern parts of Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott alluded to the deaths from the storm in Haiti, and warned residents they could be killed if they don’t head inland. In Seminole County, close to Orlando, residents were not evacuated but were placed under a 26-hour curfew from early Friday morning until early Saturday.

Walt Disney World and other theme parks in Orlando also closed their doors Thursday.

“Right now it’s pretty much a ghost town out there,” Gauthier said. “Certainly nobody out on the streets. All the restaurants are closed, gas stations are out of fuel right now, the stores are all cleaned out.”

Gauthier works in construction in Southern New England, and is hoping he’ll be able to return before he misses work. For now, he’s extended his stay at his hotel to ride out the storm.

“That’s all we can do, honestly,” he said.

Do you know any Southern New Englanders currently in Florida or the Carolinas who are impacted by the storm? If they’d be willing to be interviewed for a news story, please contact Eyewitness News at (401) 438-3310 or email desk@wpri.com.