Knoxville families scrambling to change fall break plans in wake of hurricane

Many local families were planning to head to Orlando or the beach for fall break, but Hurricane Matthew is canceling many of those plans

As Hurricane Matthew rages on, many East Tennessee families are having to cancel or delay their vacations to the coast.

The storm comes as five East Tennessee school districts are on fall break this week. Knox, Loudon and nine other counties have breaks that start next week.

Several canceled flights, cruises and theme parks along the coast are leaving families scrambling to change plans.

"We wanted to go to the Halloween party, but we can't now," 7-year-old Julia Parrish said.

She and her family have been boarded up in their Orlando hotel room for most of the day after Disney World canceled its “Micky’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.” In a rare decision, the company closed all four of its Orlando theme parks on Friday.

The family is staying 15 minutes from the resort and at least 40 miles from Florida’s coast.

Despite continuous rain and hail, mother Rachel Parrish said they are safe.

"We can walk around and feel safe right now. I know on the coast, it's a lot worse, though. But we're glad we're safe here,” she said.

For other inconvenienced travelers, emotions aren’t as calm.

"We had one client sitting in here this morning, and she was crying because her trip was canceled," Knoxville travel agent Sarah Ausmus said.

Ausmus owns J.A. Travel Agency on North Broadway. She said her office phones have been ringing non-stop almost all day.

At least 10 cruises the agency works with are canceled – not to mention several flights and hotels along the Florida and Carolina coasts. Ausmus said it's been nearly 10 years since they've been this busy.

"Even Myrtle Beach is affected,” she said. “There are a lot of parents during the fall breaks here that are taking their children to Myrtle beach, and they can't do that."           

Among the bad news, there is some good for travelers who are able to reschedule or seek refunds, which Ausmus said many companies are providing.

"We told them, 'We're sorry honey, it's just an act of God,'" she said.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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