As Hurricane Irma continued its destructive course toward the Florida mainland Friday, more than 5 million of the state’s residents – inhabitants of threatened regions – were warned that the clock for evacuation was quickly running down.
But even outside the evacuation zone, many Floridians have taken to the road, braving congested motorways and long hours of driving to be well clear of the hurricane’s path.
Nichole and Cody Smith, who until June of this year were residents of Spokane, left their Tallahassee, Florida, home just after midnight Friday with their two young children and drove through the night to reach Baton Rouge, Louisiana, early Friday. They made their decision to voluntarily evacuate after city schools – both are teachers – announced they would close in advance of Irma’s arrival.
Even in the middle of the night, the early stages of their trip were bogged down by heavy traffic as they exited the city, Nichole Smith wrote. Driving west on Interstate 10, they passed parked cars with sleeping people inside. By morning, traffic conditions on the interstate would significantly worsen.
Though not directly in the path of the hurricane, cities as far north as Tallahassee could be lashed with winds of tropical storm or even hurricane force when Irma arrives, according to National Weather Service models.
By Thursday, even some basic emergency supplies were becoming scarce in the city, wrote Smith.
“We had a few jugs of tap water in an ice chest in the back of our truck as we were never able to buy any jugs or bottles of water,” she wrote. “At the Publix grocery store near our apartment, water was delivered each morning but was sold out within an hour … When you can’t get to the grocery store until the afternoon because of work, that’s a problem.”
For the next few days, the Smiths – like most of the country – will watch the hurricane’s progress through news broadcasts and updates from the ground.
When weighing the decision to leave, “you have to decide whether the risk of being stuck in traffic (possibly for days) is greater than the risk of staying at home to face the storm,” Smith wrote. “No easy answers.”
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