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Levy county emergency manager couldn’t get his own wife to evacuate

In Levy County, Fla., emergency managers have taken proactive measures to protect the local water supply by shutting it off.

The county, about 115 miles north of Tampa on the Florida Gulf Coast, was hit hard by Hurricane Hermine last year. The waterfront town of Cedar Key was inundated with storm surge waters that dumped tons of muck and seagrass onto the island’s businesses and sidewalks and damaged the town’s water system, shutting it down for nearly a week.

Residents were urged to evacuate days ago and warned about the water shutoff. Schools in the county were opened up as shelters.

“I’d say about 90 percent of the folks there left,” said John MacDonald, director of the county’s emergency management center.

MacDonald said the storm surge threat for Irma is more inland, to sparsely populated communities along State Road 24.

“The little communities father inland, like Rosewood, they’re fixing to see water levels 10 to feet above ground,” MacDonald said. “The problem is, we’ve got some people who’ve lived around here forever, and they just refuse to leave. Those folks in Rosewood, Gulf Hammock, Otter Creek, some of them just won’t go.”

MacDonald said police and firefighters went door to door in the rain Sunday morning to make one last plea to the residents who wanted to stay.

“We explain to them that once the winds get to a certain point, we can’t come out and help them if they call,” MacDonald said.

He had to explain the same thing to his wife, Sherry, who did not want to evacuate their home in nearby Yankeetown.

“She was born here, grew up here, and she’s never left for a hurricane,” MacDonald said. “I told her I’d be bunkered down safely here at the EOC, and I can’t come out and help you in the middle of all this. The same thing I tell everybody is applies to her too, we can’t go out after a certain point. But she’s staying at home. Our son’s a firefighter, and I called him and told him, get to the house, you’re spending the hurricane with your mama.”

Hurricane Irma: Storm moves north after pounding Florida
Heavy winds and rain are seen in Miami on Sunday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Irma, the record-setting hurricane that devastated islands across the Caribbean, has been churning north through Florida — and has turned its sights on Georgia.

Visit the Capital Weather Gang’s live updates page for more on the storm.