Sunday, August 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Marco Island deserted and silent but for dire warnings to evacuate

MARCO ISLAND — On a typical Saturday morning, Collier Boulevard, one of the main roads out to the beach, is so busy that Bill and Gena Sullivan can't even back out of their driveway.

But ahead of Hurricane Irma, the Island is deserted, silent save for the swaying palms and speakers on police SUVs , warning anyone still there: EVACUATE.

LIVE BLOG: Latest updates on Hurricane Irma.

The Sullivans, married for 40 years, were among the few holdouts. They finished taking in everything from their lanai and prepared to leave Saturday afternoon if the forecast got worse.

"This is the deadest we have ever seen this island," said Bill.

Their home, he said, was about 11 feet above sea level. Their main concern was the storm surge, not the wind.

"If it's anything below 9 feet, we're staying," Bill said.

"We're from Chicago," said Gena, noticeably more nervous. "We're just two city kids who don't know what the hell they're doing."

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

A yellow school bus puttered past, headed toward condos further west. Alfredo Hernandez, a county schools driver, waited to pick up anyone who decided to leave at the last minute. When Irma's track shifted west on Friday, he said, more people escaped Marco Island.

"It's been very busy," he said.

Yet a handful of stray residents defied the evacuation order. Rain began to fall at the beach about 11 a.m. It was empty save for dragonflies bobbing along the walkway and birds diving into the waves. A man smoked a cigar on his third-floor balcony, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Elizabeth Heuermann, a local realtor, said she planned to fly out of Marco Island but couldn't get a plane ticket. So she decided to stay in her fourth-floor condo with her dog, Buddy.

The Island is never so quiet, she said, particularly not on a weekend.

"It's just eerie," Heuermann said. "I have a lot of anxiety, but I'm trying to keep calm."

She walked Buddy past the big condo buildings, crossing empty streets.

"We're going to walk quite a bit," she said.

She wasn't sure how long it would be until they could go outside again.

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