KNOXVILLE - As Hurricane Matthew barrels toward the East Coast, hundreds of thousands of people in Florida and South Carolina are under evacuation orders.
Some of those people are making their way to East Tennessee.
Knoxville-area hotels may start seeing an influx of travelers this weekend, said Visit Knoxville President Kim Bumpas.
"You have folks that might have to evacuate that then come into Knoxville and need to hang out for a few days until they can go home," she told WBIR 10News Wednesday afternoon. "And then you also have Knoxvillians, who maybe were going to travel out-of-town this weekend that decided to stay here and actually experience some of the local festivities we have going on."
Hurricane Matthew approaches as many East Tennessee families have fall break trips scheduled in those affected areas. Five local school districts are off this week, including Oak Ridge City Schools. Knox, Loudon and nine other counties have breaks that start next week.
University of Tennessee has a two-day fall break starting Thursday, and freshman Barrett Jordan is heading home to Florence, S.C., some 80 miles from the coast.
"We live far enough inland that it's not usually a problem for us," Jordan said, talking to 10News about the hurricane.
"They're saying heavy rains and high winds," his mom Susan Jordan told 10News, in a FaceTime interview from South Carolina.
Susan Jordan, a Morristown-area native now living in South Carolina, remembered last year's catastrophic flooding as she looked ahead to Hurricane Matthew.
"I doubt we'll get that much rain, but the wind is pretty serious, so, you know, we're taking down wind chimes, moving the hammocks in," she said.
Jenny Parks-Collins and her husband live in West Knoxville.
"We were planning a trip to go down to North Carolina this weekend, and we were like, 'You know what? We're not going to drive down there. Not this weekend. We'll wait,'" Parks-Collins said Wednesday.
Their change of plans, however, is the least of her worries right now.
"This is the path of the hurricane, and this is where my son is currently stationed at," Parks-Collins said, tracing her finger along a map of Florida and landing at Hurlburt Field U.S. Air Force base, in Northwest Florida.
Her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild have not yet been evacuated.
"Hopefully they're going to be okay, but they're going to get some of the storm surges," she said. "They'll probably go up to Alabama to visit family for that weekend, though."
Parks-Collins is a U.S. Air Force veteran and has been stationed in places with tropical storms before. She said Hurricane Matthew should be taken seriously.
"It's really worrisome. It's a huge storm. It's nothing to take for granted, even if you've survived 20 storms in the past and they say evacuate, you need to," she said. "You need to get yourselves out and get yourselves safe."
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