KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Families evacuating coastal states because of Hurricane Matthew are getting in their cars and heading north to higher ground. Many of them are ending up at hotels in Knoxville.
Three generations of the Johnson family are in town from Summerville, South Carolina.
“There’s 11 people and 2 dogs with us. We decided let’s just go ahead and make a vacation out of it. That’s why we came to Knoxville,” explained Reanna Johnson.
“The situation is they’re on the road and they don’t know what they’re doing at this point. They just know they need to get to higher ground and get safe. Lots of people are bringing their pets with them,” said Anthony Harper, who works the front desk at Quality Inn on Merchant Drive.
More coverage: Hurricane Matthew
The hotel had five evacuee families staying with them as of Thursday morning. They’re expecting at least 20 to 30 families by Friday night.
“We’re trying to get a couple of extra housekeepers and rooms changed over quickly,” Harper added.
“This is our first hurricane, so we don’t know how long it’s going to be, or if it’ll go out to sea, come back. So we’re going day by day and watching the news. So far we’re thinking we’ll be here at least through Sunday. We’re keeping an eye on it,” Johnson said.
Carl and Sandy Large are Florida retirees staying at the Red Roof Inn on Merchant Drive. They’re worried about their kids and grandchildren in North Palm Beach, Florida.
“I have two sons there and a bunch of grandkids. My younger son has boarded up the house. His wife, two dogs and two kids are the Hyatt hotel downtown there. He’s concerned they’ll evacuate the hotel,” Carl Large said.
“We’re just flying by the seat of our pants, really,” Sandy Large said.
The Johnson family says they’re making the best of what nature’s handed to them.
“We looked at the top things to do in Knoxville. And being from the low country we don’t get fall colors. So we want to go to the Smokies and look at the fall colors,” Reanna Johnson said.
Usually Knoxville hotels have a fixed check-in time, but many are letting guests check in as they arrive, because of the circumstances.