Hurricane Irma Evacuation: Why Some People Aren’t Leaving

Getty A woman carries her dog as people arrive at a shelter at Alico Arena where thousands of Floridians are hoping to ride out Hurricane Irma in Fort Myers, Florida. The Fort Myers area could begin to feel hurricane-force winds from Irma by 11 a.m. Sunday and experience wind gusts over 100 mph from Sunday through Monday.

If you ask Floridians why they aren’t leaving the potentially catastrophic wrath of Hurricane Irma, you will see an array of different answers. Some don’t believe they’d stand a chance getting out with all of the traffic, while others worry that they would run out of gas and get stuck on an interstate. Intense wind and rain are already ripping through Miami, while water rises around the Florida Keys. Irma is expected to strengthen as it crosses just over 100 miles from the north coastline of Cuba.

Approximately 6.3 million of the 21 million Florida residents have been ordered to evacuate the state, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Heavy spoke with Marco Island resident Bernice Clark, who said she is staying at the Marriott Hotel in town after being hesitant to leave. She said that “Marco Island firemen, cops, city officials and some Lee County Electric Company” workers are also staying at the high-end hotel. “We are all so appreciative for the Marriott,” Clark told Heavy. “They are feeding us 3 meals per day…very nice, choice of hot or cold…and all of the water we could need.”

The view from Bernice Clark’s room at the Marriott Hotel in Marco Island, Florida.

Clark went on to explain why she is still on the island. “We did not leave immediately as it looked like it was going to be more of an east coast event,” she said. “We tried to get gas all week as we were watching the weather updates. We were finally able to fill our tanks on Thursday and by then reports of shortages throughout the state made me hesitant to leave. My daughter lives with me and has 1-year-old and 5-year-old girls. We couldn’t risk getting stranded on the road with them. I stayed here at the Marriott back when Wilma went through so I figured we would be as safe here as we would be anywhere.”

“Dangerous storm surge is expected in the Naples and Marco Island areas, especially if Irma tracks on the west side of model forecasts,” Weather Underground reported. “Surge may peak here during the southwesterly onshore winds after Irma has passed just to the north. Residents must heed all evacuation orders.”

Janean Fabin, also of Marco Island, told Heavy that “it’s getting more scary now” and she’s staying in a home just north of the island in Cape Coral. Fabin said:

We’re shuttered up and have a generator so feel a bit safer here. We did consider evacuating but where would we go? The storm is the size of the state of Florida! The traffic was bumper to bumper and gas was impossible to find. I couldn’t imagine getting stuck somewhere on the interstate. Who knows how long it could take to get back down here too after the storm? Just hoping I still have a home to go back to Monday.

Monica Stinnett shared a post on Facebook stating that many people feel stuck:

I woke up this morning with my South FL friends on my mind. Please don’t judge them for not leaving. As we all know, the hurricane path predictions bounce around. Knowing from experience of living in South FL, by the time that there is a strong indication that the hurricane is coming your way….you are stuck. What most people don’t realize is how far it is from South FL to the GA state line. Gas is not to be found since trucks have long stopped delivering. Delivery trucks of any kind will not make the trip down south because they know getting back out of the state is near impossible. If you are fortunate to have a full tank, you face the great possibility that you will not be able to get gas at your next stop. Traffic to the north is horrific. Also, flights are cancelled. It’s easy to say ‘leave’ but in reality it’s not possible. Instead of judging, please pray hard for these folks who call FL home. #dontjudge #prayhard #bethereforthem #lovewins

Shelby Decker explained to Butch Grimes in an interview that she wasn’t going anywhere, and offered tips for others who are doing the same:

“It was a family decision for a number of reasons we decided to stay here,” Decker said. “We did look at the possibility of flying out but the only available flights flying out would have been on Saturday, and it was later in the day when they were predicting that winds would be much higher. So we decided to avoid the airport at that time, because we didn’t want to get to the airport and then have the flight cancelled or majorly delayed…and either be stuck at the airport or having to come back to the condo and be on the roads at that time. So we thought it would be better to have all of our preparations all situated and to be safely inside the condo and just ride it out.”

“Anybody that is saying that they’re not leaving is a fool,” Monroe County Mayor George Nuegent told CNN. “Everybody ought to be leaving because the magnitude of this storm…I can’t believe anybody wouldn’t want to get out of here if they had a chance to get out of here,” he stated:

Gov. Rick Scott tweeted that help is available for those who are not able to get out due to traffic. “If you are in an evacuation zone & do not have a way to evacuate due to traffic- call 1-800-342-3557,” he stated. “We will do all we can to get you out.”

“They’re getting in the final dog walks on Marco Island,” @ZackSampson tweeted. “Mandatory evacuation, but some people not leaving. #irma”