Hurricane Irma

A rough surf surrounds Boynton Beach inlet in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Florida's east coast, on Sept. 10, 2017. When the storm shifted it's track from the east coast to the west, many Floridians evacuated to South Carolina, including Gerry and Judi Bonin of Venice, Fla.

Jim Rassol, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Gerry Bonin and his wife, Judi, kept a close eye on Hurricane Irma as it roared through the Caribbean and headed toward Florida.

At first, it seemed the storm would hit Florida’s east coast. Then it shifted west, with Saturday’s forecast showing Irma over their house in Venice, Fla.

"We said, 'We are out of here!' " Gerry Bonin said.

"We lifted everything off the floor," he said. "Hopefully, we are not going to get more than a category 3 when it comes through. A category 4 and we could have up to three feet of water in our house."

The couple picked up their daughter in St. Petersburg and headed north. The only hotel they could find in their path was in Orangeburg.

Their daughter, Jenni, lives in an older home. She’s not too optimistic about its future.

"The back end of my house is going to fall off," she said. "It is an old house that has big old windows. Most of the roof should be fine. There is a back section that could easily go."

Art Foster and his wife live just about three blocks away from the Bonins.

They evacuated to Orangeburg as well and were surprised to see their neighbors at church Sunday morning.

"It was just like church on Sunday morning usually," Bonin said, laughing.

Leaving Florida was difficult.

"You always have the emotions of worrying about whether the house will be there or the type of damage that will be there," Foster said.

"Will we be able to get to our house even?" Bonin said. "You just don't know."

Foster has lived in Florida since 2008 and the Bonins for the past three years.

"We never had a storm," Bonin said.

The families do have home and flood insurance.

"Life is more important than property," Foster said.

Tampa, Florida, resident Bill Klosternon has lived in Florida since 1969 and has never left his home for a hurricane.

For Irma, he was not taking any chances.

"This one was more disconcerting," he said. "It was larger, stronger. It just felt more menacing."

"My biggest concern is not that I was worried about the structure," he said. "I am more concerned because I did not want to live two or three weeks without power."

Hilton Head resident Donald Hejna arrived with his wife Friday night to escape the storm. There is a mandatory evacuation in place for the island.

"Interstate 95 was terrible," Hejna said. "We were on it for about 10 miles going about 20 to 30 mph. Occasionally it hit 50."

The couple also evacuated during Hurricane Matthew.

Hejna said Matthew downed trees in his yard and put a foot of water in the home's basement.

"There was a lot of damage because we had not gotten everything up high enough," he said. "This time when we left everything is more than a foot off the ground down in that room. We hope it's OK."

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

0
1
0
0
0

Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

Load comments