Gavin Hyland looks at the frightening reality of expecting a natural disaster.
Families running around, mothers pushing shopping trolleys while the rest of the family skirt into aisles grabbing water, tinned food, bread and any other type of nutritional foods they could find. This is the scene inside one of the largest Walmart’s in Orlando days before Hurricane Irma hit.
With hurricane Harvey causing death and destruction in Texas just weeks earlier, Irma promised the same for Florida. Every Taxi driver and Uber driver told their stories of surviving previous storms and how they were preparing for Irma.
“We are prepared as much as we can be but we just don’t know what will happen” said one Uber driver. A police officer predicted that the hurricane would be a category 2 before it reached Orlando but even that level of a storm could still cause serious damage.
Irma was a category 5 hurricane as it hit the British Virgin Islands and other small islands in the Caribbean. It made landfall in Miami and weakened to a still deadly category 4 as it made its way north through Florida during Saturday. Social media feeds were full of images of waist-high waters streaming through the streets of Miami. Far more damage and loss of life occurred on the Caribbean islands with Britain sending troops to help with recovery.
Hotel lobbies were full of people who evacuated from further south as family dogs and children ran around the lobby and adults waited in line hoping to get a room. Giant billboards advertised television and radio channels to get constant updates on the biggest storm the Atlantic Ocean has ever seen.
There was a sense that Irma was unlike anything Florida had ever encountered before which makes it all the more terrifying as this is a place that is quite familiar with hurricanes and tropical storms. The famous Disney World closed its doors for only the sixth time in the 45-year history of the resort. Universal Studios also closed their doors but they have reported only minor damage to their property. As the storm made landfall and travelled north through Florida, the death toll in the USA reached 12 people while over 30 were killed in the Caribbean, with dozens more injured.
At Orlando International Airport, hundreds of people queued to check in for their flights. British Embassy staff lined the lobby of the airport to advise British citizens. One Welsh family told their story of leaving Orlando. “We were supposed to go home on Sunday (10th September) but our travel agent rang five hours ago and told us we need to get to the airport as soon as possible. We have to fly Orlando to Glasgow and then Glasgow to Bristol before eventually getting to Wales some time tomorrow night”.
Hurricane Irma has weakened to a tropical storm as it left Florida. The damage and clean-up is set to take weeks and months but President Trump has assured the American people that money will not be an obstacle in the rebuilding process.
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