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Jake A. Herbert places covers over his cars to protect them from hail and debris from hurricane Irma. His family evacuated from Fripp Island.

JOHN MACK, T&D

Hurricane Irma is chasing Florida residents into Orangeburg County as they look for a safe place to get off the busy road and ride out the storm.

Francine Kapp and her family traveled up from Fort Lauderdale.

“We’ve been in traffic the whole way -- 95 is just awful,” Kapp said.

The family stayed overnight in Brunswick, Georgia because of the driving conditions.

“We almost wanted to just stay there, but they evacuated us and we’ve been in traffic the whole way here,” Kapp said. “This looks like it might be safe here because we were going on to North Carolina.”

On Saturday afternoon, the family was trying to decide whether to keep on driving. Forecasts had changed, showing Hurricane Irma shifting west.

“Tomorrow it could hit Tampa and then go off to Alabama,” Kapp said.

The family is traveling with two young girls ages 3 and 6.

“Everybody’s tired, we’re packed in there,” Kapp said. “Driving miles with little ones in the car is hard.”

The family decided it was time to leave Florida after hearing about the size of Irma.

“They started saying it was twice the size of Hurricane Andrew,” Kapp said. “It was like, ‘Hey, you don’t have any shot. It’s covering the whole state.’”

“It looked devastating,” she added.

A few of their friends decided to stay, so they plan on calling often to keep updated.

Jacob Stump and his family also made a stop in Orangeburg. They left Brooksville, Florida at 8 a.m. Friday.

He said the storm could “hit right in the middle of where I live.”

“Even on the way here, we were looking up the weather,” Stump said. “It’s gotten even worse since then.”

His family encountered heavy traffic as well. With just a few stops along the way, they had only reached Orangeburg Saturday afternoon.

Stump said the family was not sure where they would end up because before they left, his mother had looked up hotel bookings and saw no vacancies.

After a stop at the Wendy’s off the interstate, Stump’s father saw a nearby hotel and decided to check for available rooms.

The family had to wait about an hour in the parking lot but soon enough, they had a room to stay in.

“We’re just glad to have finally found a spot,” Stump said.

He is thinking about his friends back home who felt they could weather the storm.

Stump said they were stubborn and told him, “We’re used to the storms.”

Jake A. Herbert, who is no stranger to heavy storms, said he and his family evacuated Fripp Island as early as they could.

“We always do,” Herbert said. “We did this last year in Matthew.”

Fripp Island residents were told to evacuate so Herbert said, “We don’t know what we’re going back to.”

He noted that their home still has damage from last year’s Hurricane Matthew.

“When they first mentioned it, we boarded up the house,” he said.

They plan on staying in Orangeburg “until they say we can go back.”

“We carried everything we’d need to live off at least for a month,” Herbert said.

Herbert is also taking special precautions to cover his cars.

In the hotel parking lot, he placed covers over two cars in case Hurricane Irma causes hail or debris to fall on them.

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

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Government Reporter

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

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