Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

In Irma's path, Cape Coral residents sticking it out

CAPE CORAL — This Gulf city, hugged by the Caloosahatchee River, is right in the middle of Hurricane Irma's track.

But driving around late Saturday, as the winds picked up and the palms began to bend, it wasn't hard to find people hunkering down instead of evacuating.

"Cape Coral is a pretty new city," said Yanet Morales, 37. "We feel the house is safety."

She and her extended Cuban family were planning to ride out Irma in a concrete house on Academy Boulevard. The night before the storm, they played dominoes and drank wine, confident that the building would hold and their big stock of rice, beans, chicken and pork would carry them through.

They were still waiting to hear from relatives in Cuba to find out how their family made it through the storm.

"The shelters are mostly full," said 15-year-old Yudel Senarega.

"Everywhere that you decide to go, you have to make a line," Morales said.

Better, they agreed, to stay at the house with loved ones, playing games and sticking together.

"You cannot think too much because you can be more nervous," Morales said.

Just across the street, Brian Southard loaded two dogs into a pickup truck, ready to flee with his mom. Waiting on Cape Coral? Not for him.

"See the shot?" he asked, referencing the forecast track for Irma. "It's going straight for us."

The storm surge and winds in the city could be devastating, forecasters said.

Michelle Kent, 58, had planned to stick around with her father, 82, paralyzed and dying of cancer. It would just be too hard to move him.

Kent and a friend grabbed floats from their pool. If it really came in, they figured, they would put her father on a raft and get him to a park near the house, hoisting him 20 feet up onto a slide platform, where they could camp out above the water.

But then authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation for their section of the city near the river. She started hearing about a storm surge 9 feet above the ground.

A friend offered a house — with a generator — further inland. They planned to move there Sunday morning.

If the forecast proves correct, Kent said, Cape Coral is "going to look like Texas."

"We won't have anything to come back to," she said.

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