Advertisement
  1. Transportation

Hurricane Irma traffic: They tried to flee, but had to go back home

Cars sit in traffic as they evacuate heading North on Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys on Septeber 5, 2017 in Islamorada, Florida. Residents are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm expected to make landfall this weekend. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Cars sit in traffic as they evacuate heading North on Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys on Septeber 5, 2017 in Islamorada, Florida. Residents are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm expected to make landfall this weekend. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Published Sep. 8, 2017

SEMINOLE — Angie Bunch, 79, thought she and her husband Rob were doing the right thing when they hit the road Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. and headed north to Valdosta, hoping of dodging Hurricane Irma.

LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

They never expected traffic to be so bad that it would force them to turn around and drive back to their two-story Seminole home on a bayou.

Getting to Tampa wasn't too bad. But things slowed down quickly once they hit Interstate 75. By the time they reached Busnell, everything was backed up.

"We couldn't even get to Ocala," Angie Bunch said. "We were at a standstill. We looked at each other and said, 'There's no way we're making it to Georgia. No way.'"

After five hours on the road, the couple had only managed to travel 90 miles. The return trip took an hour and 15 minutes.

HURRICANE IRMA: Pinellas orders mandatory evacuations for mobile home, Level A residents

LOCAL EVACUATIONS: What you need to know

They weren't not alone trying to get out of the way of the Category 5 storm. Interstates across Florida were packed as residents in South Florida and the Florida Keys fled north.

But after Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas issued the first evacuation orders on Thursday, Bunch fears traffic can only grow more hellacious.

"I don't think the state is prepared fort this," she said. "It's very frustrating. I think we're just going to have to stay where we are."

But Bunch could still be ordered to evacuate her home, which is in Pinellas' Zone B, if the storm continues to develop.

A decision on Levels B and C residents will be made Friday night, which could mean 500,000 residents would be ordered to evacuate their homes in the next 48 hours or so.

If that's the case, Bunch said she plans to stay within Pinellas County, likely going to her granddaughter's house in a non-evacuation zone.

"I can't handle that traffic again," Bunch said.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  2. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  3. Tampa International Airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot. Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails. [Tampa International Airport]
    Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.
  4. In this photo from video, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, dumps fuel over Los Angeles before returning to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing Tuesday. Fuel dumped by the airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to the airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman) [MATT HARTMAN  |  AP]
    The fuel, described by fire officials as a vapor, caused minor skin and lung irritation to 56 children and adults but nobody was taken to the hospital.
  5. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.
  6. Ridge Road in Pasco County currently ends at Moon Lake Road. [Tampa Bay Times]
    At a ground-breaking ceremony, officials laud a road more than 30 years in the making.
  7. Readers question who determines how long a traffic light will remain either red or green and what factors go into that decision in the latest Dr. Delay. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Who controls the timing of the lights in Tampa Bay? Dr. Delay gets some answers.
  8. Pinellas bus drivers carry tips on spotting signs of human trafficking under a new program called, "We are the Eyes Of The City." Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses also carry the anti-trafficking message, "See something, say something." [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    ‘Eyes on the city’ now include nearly 400 operators with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
  9. This rendering from the Florida Department of Transportation shows the eight foot tall steel netting that will be added to the Sunshine Skyway later this year to deter suicidal people from jumping from the iconic span. [Florida Department of Transportation]
    The 8-foot-tall steel netting will run along about a mile and a half of the iconic span that for decades has been a magnet for people seeking to take their own lives.
  10. A 33-year-old Brandon woman died on Jan. 7, 2020 after crashing this 2001 Chevy pickup into the back of a box truck on Interstate south of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. [Florida Highway Patrol]
    A woman was killed in a crash after her speeding Chevy pickup ran into the back of a box truck.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement