Sweetwater couple

Roger and Brenda Niolet, a married couple of 40 years, left their Sarasota home Saturday morning to find refuge from the oncoming storm. They have been staying at Sweetwater Lake Campground.

JOHN MACK, T&D

A Florida couple had plans to escape Hurricane Irma by heading to South Carolina. Now, they think it would’ve been better to just stay at home.

Roger and Brenda Niolet, who’ve been married for 40 years, left their Sarasota home Saturday morning to find refuge from the oncoming storm.

Roger Niolet said they left because of “the fear that it would directly hit us.”

They brought along their two pets, Killer the cat and Gunner the dog.

“We couldn’t leave them home,” Brenda Niolet said. “They traveled well.”

Before shifting its track, the hurricane looked like it would have gone right over their home.

They packed up a two-person camper they bought around five months ago and headed north. They were stuck in traffic and unsure of when they would find gas.

“The traffic was horrendous,” Roger Niolet said. “I’ve been to Greenville many times traveling and I can get there in less than 9 hours. This trip is 14 and we haven’t even made it to Greenville yet.”

After staying for a few hours in the parking lot of a rest area, the two found an opening at the Sweetwater Lake Campground.

“We saw this sign because we drove for so many hours,” Roger Niolet said. “We got tired and we stopped at the campground here.”

They had never heard of the site before but once they reached the area, they said the staff were nice and relaxed.

“They just said, ‘Honesty policy. Just put the money in an envelope,’” Niolet said laughing.

He added that he had not seen any price gouging.

“Everybody here’s been great about it,” Niolet said.

Before heading home, they planned on filling up with gas to power generators when they arrive back home.

“Sometimes it’s seven or eight days until you get power,” Niolet said. “There are no gas cans to be found, hardly at all.’

They found extras at a Citgo station and filled up as much as they could.

“When we get back, there will be no gas, zero,” Niolet said. “There wasn’t any when we left. There won’t be any for a while.”

The couple received updates from neighbors who stayed behind and found out they would not be needing the generators after all. The power is back up already.

Niolet said there was “absolutely no damage to our house because the storm moved away.”

He added, “It was the best thing that could’ve happened for that area.”

Contact the writer: jmack@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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T&D Staff Writer

John Mack is a 2016 graduate of Claflin University. He is an Orangeburg native.

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