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

From left, Yanet Morales, 37, Lazaro Senarega, 13, Yudel Senarega, 15, and Yudel Morales, 35, play dominoes on Saturday in the garage of the family home in Cape Coral, south of Fort Myers. In background are Juan Pujol, 32, and Maria Silva, 40. Residents of Cape Coral have been subjected to a mandatory evacuation order by Lee County Emergency Management for those living in Evacuation Zone B south of Pine Island Road, prompted by a forecast of landfall of Hurricane Irma on Florida's west coast. The family plans to ride out the storm in the home in the seaside community which is nestled against the Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times)

From left, Yanet Morales, 37, Lazaro Senarega, 13, Yudel Senarega, 15, and Yudel Morales, 35, play dominoes on Saturday in the garage of the family home in Cape Coral, south of Fort Myers. In background are Juan Pujol, 32, and Maria Silva, 40. Residents of Cape Coral have been subjected to a mandatory evacuation order by Lee County Emergency Management for those living in Evacuation Zone B south of Pine Island Road, prompted by a forecast of landfall of Hurricane Irma on Florida's west coast. The family plans to ride out the storm in the home in the seaside community which is nestled against the Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

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.

In Irma's path, Cape Coral residents sticking it out 09/09/17 [Last modified: Saturday, September 9, 2017 6:19pm]
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