Nina Castaneira was six years old when Hurricane Andrew slammed through South Florida. She remembers looking out the window watching her neighborhood being torn apart by the Category 5 storm.
Today, she’s preparing to ride out another monster hurricane–Hurricane Irma, a strong Category 4 storm.
“Everybody is really freaking out,” Castaneira said. “The streets are empty. Everybody is gone.”
Gov. Rick Scott says time is running out for Floridians to find a safe place to ride out Irma.
“We are running out of time. The storm is almost here. If you are in an evacuation zone you need to go now,” Gov. Scott said during a briefing Friday morning. “Today is the day to do the right thing for your family and get inland to safety,”
Castaneira says she would have evacuated, but her car broke down. She tried calling the state hotline for evacuation assistance but she hasn’t been able to get through.
She lives with her mother, sister and her dog, Diesel, in a first floor duplex off of Biscayne Boulevard just blocks from the water and near an evacuation zone.
Is she scared?
“Yes and no. I’m trying to stay confident,” Castaneira said. “I’m mainly just concerned about flooding.”
She purchased a canine life preserver for Diesel just in case the storm surge gets too high.
Across the state in Naples, Steve Fleischer decided not to leave his home although it’s located a few blocks from the beach. Constructed after the tougher hurricane building codes were enacted, Fleischer is confident his home can withstand Irma’s winds.
“But if the storm surge is anything close to what they are talking about, along with 15 to 17 inches of rain, I think we’re going to have some significant flooding and I’m only three blocks from the beach,” Fleischer said.
Fleisher, 67, says if water does come into his house, he’s prepared to wait it out on the second floor.
Back on the east coast, in Delray Beach, longtime Florida resident Delena May is preparing to ride out the storm.
May has been through a number of hurricanes she says this one is different. She says she is apprehensive about Irma.
“I have been here in Florida since 1955 and I think this is the first time I’ve taken it (a hurricane) very seriously,” said May. “In the past..the only concern was we had enough chips and beer and we all got together and had a hurricane party. This time I don’t see anybody doing hurricane parties.”
May was ready to evacuate, but decided to stay after seeing the traffic on the highways heading north. She will spend the weekend at her son’s house which is several miles inland. Although she says she feels safe, there is an uncertainty about Irma that concerns her.
“I just keep thinking of poor ole’ Dorothy,” May said referring to the movie, The Wizard of Oz. “It’s not Kansas anymore. Well, I can tell you today, it’s not Florida anymore.”