Should they stay, or should they go?
As a storm like Irma approaches, the biggest question for many residents in its path is whether to evacuate or hunker down. Some don’t really have much of a choice. The Washington Post spoke to two Floridians who reached out to us via Snapchat about why they’d chosen to flee Irma’s path, or stay and wait out the storm.
Trish Robertson lives in Fort Myers, Fla. with her husband and two Australian shepherds. When Irma began to approach, they made the decision to leave for Atlanta, where they have family.
As a Florida native, she’d weathered other hurricanes before, particularly during the notorious 2004 hurricane season. So Robertson was “really not interested” in dealing with the historic Irma.
“We decided to evacuate because the shelters in our area, there’s very limited areas that will take in pets,” Robertson said. She also did not want to take up space in shelters for people with nowhere else to go.
“Unfortunately, we live in a flood zone, but we do have flood insurance, we do have homeowners insurance. We took pictures before we left, took all our important documents with us,” Robertson said. After boarding up their home and moving their belongings inside, Robertson, her husband and the dogs headed for Georgia. She said congestion meant the trip took over 17 hours, far more than the typical eight or nine.
“Hopefully we did a good job securing the home, but we’re not sure what we’re coming back to,” Robertson said. “We’re just gonna have to be patient, help each other out, and go from there.”
Rachel Baker, who lives in West Palm Beach, is no stranger to hurricanes. She lived through Andrew, Frances and Jeanne, weathering the latter two in the same home she currently shares with her four toddlers and ailing mother. “It felt like a third world country,” she said of the aftermath of Frances and Jeanne in 2004. “The water would run, it was cold showers. You were eating out of a can,” she recalled.
So Baker knows how to prepare. She’s boarded up her house, bought “about $70” worth of Evian water because it’s the only kind of water she could find at the store. Her house is made of concrete, and she’s confident it can withstand the wind and rain.
“The only other place to go for us is Michigan. My mom’s car is broke, and I don’t have enough room in my SUV for all of us,” Baker said. A van rental fell through at the eleventh hour. So they’re staying put.
Baker’s major concern is that her mother, who has a heart condition, would run out of extra oxygen should the house lose power. The oxygen provider, LinnCare, said they did not have any oxygen when Baker called to request backup supplies. “If she starts turning blue, I’m going to have to call 911,” Baker said.
“I’m not worried about the wind, I’m not worried about the rain. The only thing I’m worried about is the storm surge,” she said. “I’m worried we’re going to flood like Texas did. I’ve never had a storm where we had a huge wave.” Baker lives just outside of Palm Beach’s evacuation zone, and is hoping that she will be okay. If it’s necessary to flee, she has located a shelter a mile away.
In the meantime, Baker and her neighbors are gathering this weekend for “one big hurrah,” to cook perishable food that would spoil in an outage. As she spoke to The Post, she was bringing chicken breasts to a neighbor to cook, and she was going to “throw a turkey in the oven” and “pretend it’s Thanksgiving.”
“Everyone are working class people,” Baker said of her area. “We pull together in this neighborhood.”
We have seen many people affected by Irma posting images and videos to Snapchat. Some of you have even sent these to The Washington Post. Only if it is safe for you to do so, you are welcome to Snap The Washington Post scenes from where you are – whether you’re stuck in traffic on I-75, waiting in long lines at the grocery store, or preparing your home for the storm. Be sure to tell us who you are and where the image was taken. Here’s our Snapcode: