Florida native’s family evacuates Sunshine State, as Hurricane Irma wreaks havoc

Photo courtesy of NASA

Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer 

Hurricane Irma, known as “the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade,” struck Florida, causing a Murray State student’s family to seek safety elsewhere.

Before Hurricane Irma hit mainland Florida late Sept. 10, Jason Johnson’s family abandoned their home in preparation for the floodwaters, high winds and havoc the hurricane was anticipated to have on their hometown.

Johnson, junior from Pahokee, Florida, located approximately 95 miles from Miami, said his family evacuated to Atlanta, Georgia until the storm passed.

Johnson said he spent the last few days calling his friends and family in the sunshine state to ensure they were safe after Hurricane Irma made landfall.

“One of my friends called me last night, and they were crying,” Johnson said. “I just told them everything is going to be OK. Just keep praying, everything is going to fall into place.”

With the wreckage Irma has labored, Johnson said he is nervous about the situation in his home state.

“I’ve been trying to keep a positive attitude,” Johnson said.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Sept. 4 in response to Hurricane Irma.

Prior to making landfall in Florida, the hurricane hit islands in the Caribbean and Cuba. Upon leaving its mark on Cuba, it was classified as a rare Category 5 hurricane. According to the National Hurricane Center, a Category 5 storm causes rooftops and walls to collapse, trees and power poles to fall and power outages to last for weeks. Cuba could be uninhabitable for months to come.

Sept. 9
CNN reported 168,000 Florida residents were already without power, and 72,000 residents were moved into shelters. Curfews were issued in a number of counties in order to clear roads and protect residents in anticipation for the hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center reported 36 million people under hurricane warning as winds from the storm arrived on the mainland.

Sept. 10
As a Category 4 storm, Irma hit the Florida Keys early in the day before continuing its path toward Florida’s western coast. Winds reached 130 mph, and streets were left flooded.

The rotation of the storm caused water to recede from the Tampa Bay.
ABC News reported the number of Floridians without power reached 3.5 million and more than 100,000 people were in shelters.

Tornadoes were sighted in Ormond Beach, Florida and Palm Bay, Florida.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all counties.
Later in the evening, Irma became a Category 2 storm and made landfall on mainland Florida. Areas on the coast, such as Miami, Florida saw street flooding and strong winds around 100 mph.

Sept. 11
As the storm reached Tampa, Florida, it became a Category 1 storm. Winds reached 85 mph in areas.
The storm was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm early in the morning as it continued on its path toward Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. The National Hurricane Center reports storm surge may reach 4 to 6 feet. Power outages, wind damage and flooding will occur.
CNN reports the number of customers across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama without power is approximately 7.67 million.

The Los Angeles Times reports at least 45 deaths have been confirmed.
Though Hurricane Irma did not arrive in Florida as strong as expected, damage was done. The National Weather Service is expecting wind and rain to continue. A storm surge warning continues to be in effect for north of Fernandina Beach, Florida to the south Santee River in South Carolina.

To help those affected by recent natural disasters, donors can give money and other necessities to organizations, such as UNICEF, Oxfam America and the American Red Cross. Money can also be donated to the Direct Impact Fund for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on the GoFundMe website.