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Hurricane Matthew leaves Richmond families stranded in Caribbean

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Travel agents and consultants are working overtime with airlines to help stranded families home from the Caribbean as Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall in Florida.

As of Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Matthew was upgraded to a Category 4 storm as it barreled toward the Eastern coast with wind gusts up to 165 mph.

Five flights leaving from Richmond International Airport bound for Florida were canceled ahead of the storm.

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Kim Goldstein, manager with Journeys Inc. based in Richmond, said Matthew has forced about 20 of her clients to stay put at their travel destinations.

“This is the hurricane that won't stop,” said Goldstein. “It’s been a week since the storm formed and it's still impacting travelers.”

She said about 10 clients aboard a Disney Cruise was scheduled to port near Orlando, but turned around and will stay another night in the Atlantic. A Richmond couple that visited Antigua for their honeymoon will stay until at least Saturday after their Friday flight was canceled.

“This week I love my job, but it's challenging,” said Goldstein. “They’re stuck in paradise, so there are definitely worse places to be stuck.”

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Goldstein said travel insurance plus her expertise is easing the stresses of canceled flights and extended stays for her customers.

“It’s really about trying to get people home safely,” she said.

Airline passengers were urged to call before leaving for the airport. Fort Lauderdale's airport is to close Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and FlightAware.com says almost 250 flights are canceled at Miami International.