Tag: Hurricane Irma

‘Iowa Nice is More Than Just a T-Shirt Slogan,’ Red Cross Says After Flood of New Volunteers

DES MOINES, Iowa  —  First Harvey hit. Then came Irma. Jose and Maria are now threatening. Mother Nature is bringing a fury of hurricanes, but also a steady stream of Iowa volunteers.

“Iowans are coming out to volunteer and help out,” the American Red Cross Iowa Region’s Senior Volunteer Specialist Tasmania “Taz” Stills said on Monday. “Iowa nice is more than just a t-shirt slogan.”

The numbers tell the story. The Red Cross usually has a list of about 600 Iowans who are signed up as volunteers for disaster relief, but since the hurricanes hit earlier this month, 400 additional people have reached out to the organization about volunteering.

The Red Cross requires a person to be available for a minimum two-week deployment, often on little notice. But lately, Iowans have been asking for more.

“The most common question is definitely, ‘What if I want to stay longer,'” Stills said of what he has heard from volunteers during training.

And what would she tell them? “We will work to make that happen,” Stills said. “We need it, especially in this unprecedented disaster response.”

The Red Cross held an all-day training session for more than  a dozen new volunteers at its Des Moines office on Monday. Volunteers could be deployed to a disaster site as soon as this week.

Millionaire Opens Florida Mansion to Foster Kids Affected by Hurricane Irma

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Talk about the ultimate sleep over.

Dozens of foster kids who were spending the past few nights in a hurricane shelter are now kicking back in a 27,000 square foot mansion in Boca Raton.

Millionaire Mark Bell welcomed the children to his $30 million home after receiving a call for help from SOS Children's Village Florida. Bell, who is on the board of the foster care group, decided to throw the ultimate storm party for the kids.

Tuesday night he introduced the group to the "Star Trek" home theater room in the mansion. Some of them actually slept in the theater lobby among all the memorabilia. His young guests also spent hours in a special room that's filled with arcade games, a pool table and air hockey.

Bell said he ordered manicures for all of the girls and hired a balloon animal artist and a musician for the event.

How to Talk to Kids About Trauma and Natural Disasters

DES MOINES, Iowa – It is hard to explain to children what he or she sees on TV when it comes to natural disasters.

Recently with both Hurricane Harvey and Irma children are asking questions that adults may not have the answers to.

Nurse Manager at Mercy Behavioral Science Sarah Schuller said it is important to note that young children normally are not exposed to trauma at a young age.

“A really important thing to remember is that kids learn from their parents’ response. Kids don’t have exposure to this kind of trauma normally. So, they read their parents response to learn how to respond. The first thing to remember is to talk to them at an age appropriate level,” Schuller said.

Some tips when talking to children about natural disasters include:

  • Creating an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions.
  • Give children honest answers and information.
  • Use words and concepts children can understand.
  • Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times.
  • Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings and reactions.
  • Remember that children tend to personalize situations.
  • Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises.
  • Help children find ways to express themselves.
  • Let children know that lots of people are helping the families affected by the disaster.
  • Children learn from watching their parents and teachers.
  • Don’t let children watch too much television with frightening images.
  • Children who have experienced trauma or losses in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to news or images of natural disasters.
  • Monitor physical symptoms including headaches and stomach-aches.

Schuller said Hurricane Katrina hit when her son was young, and asked him a simple question of what he would miss the most if everything he had was lost.

“He said, I would miss my books. And I said well what if we did a book drive for children in New Orleans? Our tiny church ended up sending thousands of books to help,” Schuller said.

Schuller said It is important to ask children questions like, “what would you miss? Just talk to them about the reality of the situation. What do you have? What do you have that you can give that’s something real. And make it personal, but not scary. If somebody were going to send you something, what would you like to have right now?”

You can reach the Mercy Help Center at (515)-271-6111 if you need someone to talk to.

Iowa Native Stranded in Caribbean After Hurricane Irma

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Kamilia Lee says she is frustrated, tired, and hungry. She's been stranded on the Islands of Turks and Caicos for nearly a week, thanks to Hurricane Irma.

"You get kind of disoriented and frustrated because of the communication barriers. Just the fact that you should have been home creates a lot of angst. There's a lot of frustration and sometimes being scared," she says.

The Des Moines Native traveled to the Caribbean island on September 3rd for a girls' trip. They were supposed to fly back to the United States on September 7th, but that's when Irma made landfall. Lee says the hurricane was supposed to hit the island later in the week, but the storm's last-minute change in intensity left them with little time to catch an earlier flight off the island.

"The actual hurricane itself decided to take a turn. It went from going about seven miles per hour to 17 miles per hour in  a very short span of time," she says. "It was supposed to hit the island on Monday of the following week, but instead it hit on Thursday, so they closed the airport early to ensure that the residents could prepare and it caused a lot of tourists to be stuck on the island."

The storm caused extensive damage and flooding to the hotel where Lee's group was staying, leaving them without clean water, food, and electricity.

Lee has tried four times to catch a flight off the island, and hopes Wednesday will be a success.

"I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. We are 100% standby. There is no guaranteed seats at this point, and so you're not able to assign yourself a seat," she says. "It's on a first come first serve basis."

They Opened Their Home to Irma Evacuees and Made a Birthday Wish Come True

LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia  —  Cesar Sanchez and his family heeded Broward County’s Irma evacuation order as soon as they could and left their home in Weston, Florida, on Thursday.

They had no idea where they would end up. They had no friends or family outside of Florida. Only one thing was certain: Their daughter would turn 6 years old on Saturday, September 9, and they would not let it pass without a celebration.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers, they found a place to celebrate among new friends in a cross-cultural exchange in the exurbs of Atlanta.

“God brought us to safety and he found us a home with a beautiful family,” Sanchez told CNN, speaking in Spanish. “God bless America.”

The Sanchez family is one of many turning to informal networks of community-based coalitions forming to help evacuees in Irma’s path. Sanchez’s wife found out about one such group from a WhatsApp group chat consisting of extended family and friends.

The Atlanta Hurricane Solidarity Project began as a Google doc of people willing to host evacuees. Through word of mouth, community groups, mosques and churches joined the effort, and the coalition formed a website where people can sign up as hosts, and evacuees can request shelter.

Ordinary people welcome strangers

Since Friday, the group has placed more than 100 people and 20 pets, said volunteer Mary Hoyt. Most of the requests come in when people are on the road in frantic search mode after being turned away from hotels and shelters.

“It’s been an exhausting but thrilling couple of days,” Hoyt said. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Atlantans. It has been very moving to speak with people on the phone while they were driving, just be an encouragement for them when they were in crisis.”

That’s how the Sanchez family came across the group. They only arrived in the United States from Venezuela in 2016, after fleeing the country’s political and economic instability. They had no friends or family outside of Florida to stay with. After leaving Weston, they had spent two nights in a Tampa hotel that was booked to capacity and could not keep them another night beyond Friday.

Fellow volunteer Nabil Taha got the call from the Sanchez family around 10 p.m. Saturday night. After learning more about the needs of the Spanish-speaking family of four, he reached out to Kathie Butler in Lawrenceville, a suburban community northeast of Atlanta.

The retired nurse and her husband don’t speak Spanish, but they have a 5-bedroom house with a backyard, perfect for hosting an impromptu party.

Sanchez and his wife arrived with their two children, whom they requested not be named, late Saturday. A bond of mutual gratitude instantly formed, members of both families said. The Sanchezes were relieved to have a place to stay with warm, welcoming hosts; the Butlers were thrilled to help a family in need — especially when they saw the little girl wearing a pink, bedazzled birthday tiara.

“I was a little nervous not knowing what was coming, but when they came through the door, they’re just the most beautiful people,” Brett Butler said. “We instantly knew we were going to be friends.”

Their first request was to celebrate. All the Sanchezes had brought with them were cases of water, some personal effects and the essentials for a child’s birthday: a white, vanilla-frosted cake with rainbow sprinkles, a balloon and a Moana doll for a gift.

They brought the cake into the house and sang “Happy Birthday” in Spanish, then in English.

‘Friends for life’

The revelry continued through Sunday, as three more Sanchez relatives arrived — first, with a waffle breakfast, followed by grilled steaks and caprese salad for dinner.

Sanchez’s 17-year-old son initially served as translator. As the day went on, it got easier for the Butlers to communicate through gestures and glances and a bit of broken Spanish, they said.

Monday, it was Sanchez’s turn to make breakfast. Eager to share the cuisine of his homeland, he prepared Venezuelan arepas, or cornmeal patties, stuffed with one of two options: scrambled eggs, tomato and ham; or reina pepiada, chicken salad with avocado and onion.

It’s not clear when they’ll leave, but Kathie Butler said she’s happy to play host as long as necessary. After that, she’s looking forward to visiting them in Florida one day.

“We’re friends for life,” she said. “For the time being, we’re celebrating the fact we have new friends and guests to entertain.”

Iowa Red Cross Volunteers Ready to Help With Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts

FLORIDA  --  Volunteers from the Iowa Red Cross are heading down south.

The Greater Iowa chapter posted a photo of a group leaving Des Moines for Macon, Georgia, on Sunday. The five volunteers have skills ranging from mass care to EMT to case work.

At least 61 Iowans have deployed to Florida and Texas to help with back-to-back hurricanes in the U.S.

Iowa National Guard Members Going to Florida

FLORIDA  --  Nineteen Iowa National Guard members are being deployed to Florida on Monday.

The decision came following a request from the state of Florida for additional assistance. Guard members will take four helicopters to help support response operations for Hurricane Irma.

The team is comprised of members from Waterloo, Davenport, Iowa City, and Boone.

Upon arriving, soldiers will be tasked with moving supplies, equipment, and people, as well as support with search and rescue efforts.

Why Tornadoes Are Among a Hurricane’s Potent Threats

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FLORIDA  —  Hurricane Irma wasn’t the only vortex that the southeastern US had to worry about Sunday. The cyclone spawned tornadoes in parts of Florida in the morning and afternoon and could produce more — typical of hurricanes that get enough of their circulation over land.

Most of Florida and parts of Georgia were under tornado watches Sunday as the hurricane’s destructive core powered its way into Florida’s Gulf Coast, and tornado warnings followed.

One tornado damaged homes in east-central Florida’s Palm Bay late Sunday morning, the National Weather Service said — while Irma’s eye wall was spinning off the Everglades, more than 150 miles to the southwest.

That tornado’s location — well away from the hurricane’s core, and in the storm’s front-right quadrant (relative to the hurricane’s direction) — is typical for cyclone-produced tornadoes. Here are some things to know about twisters in hurricanes:

Land-striking hurricanes are conducive to tornadoes …

Nearly all tropical cyclones that hit the United States produce at least one tornado, “provided enough of the … cyclone’s circulation moves over land,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Why? Tornadoes thrive in part on strong vertical shear, which means a difference in horizontal winds’ direction and speed at different heights. And tropical cyclones offer a lot of vertical shear.

… especially in the front-right quadrant (in the Northern Hemisphere)

In the Northern Hemisphere, this vertical shear is especially pronounced in a tropical cyclone’s front-right (generally the northeast) quadrant.

That’s because, in this hemisphere, a cyclone rotates counterclockwise, and on the east side of the storm, the “outer bands come on shore at an angle typically bringing winds from the southeast,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

Meanwhile, winds in higher levels of the atmosphere generally come from the west or southwest in the United States.

“So, usually the eastern side of the storm has winds opposite of the winds aloft, so that’s where you have high levels of (vertical) sheer,” Ward said.

They’re often well away from the cyclone’s eye …

Most tornadoes happen in a tropical cyclone’s outer rain bands, about 50 to 200 miles from the center, though some have been spawned near the inner core, NOAA said.

These tornadoes might be a little weaker, and dissipate faster, than a tornado spawned in, say, the US Central Plains. Besides vertical sheer, tornadoes thrive on an unstable atmosphere — and most instability happens at lower altitudes for a tropical cyclone than for a storm at higher latitudes, NOAA said.

So, the tornado-producing storm cells from a hurricane “tend to be smaller and shallower,” according to NOAA.

… but they pop up with relatively little warning

The combination of shear and instability that a hurricane offers still produces small supercell storms that are more likely to spawn tornadoes than ordinary thunderstorm cells, NOAA said.

And hurricane-produced tornadoes can form quickly and dissipate quickly. “There’s not a ton of warning to them,” Ward said.

In a hurricane’s outer bands, tornadoes represent a burst of concentrated destruction in an area that otherwise might not see the devastating levels of wind produced by the hurricane’s core.

Irma, Now a Category 3 Hurricane, Makes Landfall in Marco Island

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FLORIDA  —  Editor’s note: This is a developing story that is being constantly updated as the storm progresses. Also, follow our live updates here or watch unlimited CNN.

(Breaking news alert, posted at 3:59 p.m. ET Sunday)

Hurricane Irma made landfall in Marco Island, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph at 3:35 p.m. ET Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. This is the storm’s second landfall in Florida. It hit Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. as a Category 4 storm.

(Previous story, posted at 3:49 p.m. ET Sunday)

Hurricane Irma bludgeoned Florida on Sunday, uprooting trees and turning Miami streets into rivers.

And there’s plenty more to come.

Naples and Marco Island will endure some of the strongest winds in the next few hours, the National Hurricane Center said.

Irma, now a Category 3 hurricane, is bringing 120 mph winds as it hugs the southwest Florida coast.

A personal weather station at the Marco Island Police Department reported a wind gust of 130 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Police Chief Al Schettino said the worst part of the storm was hitting his city. Without power, emergency officials are using a backup radio system to communicate, he said.

“We’re all hanging in there,” he said, “ready to get out there to help others as soon as its safe to do so.”

Even areas that aren’t facing a direct hit from Irma are already seeing flooding and downed power lines.

“We’re getting slammed right now,” Josh Levy, the mayor of Hollywood, Florida, told CNN on Sunday afternoon.

Expected to b even more dangerous than the powerful winds are the storm surges that threaten Florida’s coastal cities.

“The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected,” the hurricane center said. “This is a life-threatening situation.”

Still, not everyone heeded orders to evacuate coastal Florida.

Wayne Ploghoft is hunkered down on the third floor of a building on Marco Island — where life-threatening storm surges are imminent.

Ploghoft said he wasn’t able to evacuate because his flight plans didn’t work out. Now Ploghoft and three others are holed up with stockpiles of water, canned food and battery power.

“We’re all going to be OK,” Ploghoft said.

Gov. Rick Scott said Irma’s wrath is unprecedented.

“We have never had anything like this before,” he told CNN Sunday.

In Florida and southern Georgia, more than 8 million people face hurricane-force winds topping 74 mph, said Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.

And almost the entire state of Florida is under a hurricane warning, affecting at least 36 million people.

Miami succumbs to Irma’s wrath

Gusts topping 90 mph whipped Miami on Sunday, knocking out power to more than 750,000 customers in the Miami-Dade area.

Flying objects such as coconuts turned into dangerous projectiles. And at least one construction crane snapped, swinging vigorously over downtown Miami.

Matthew Spuler captured video of waves crashing over a seawall toward his downtown high-rise building.

“There is no seawall whatsoever,” Spuler said. “It’s amazing. It’s under water.”

The latest developments:

— The center of Hurricane Irma is nearing Naples, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. Airports in the area reported powerful winds, including a sustained wind of 55 mph (88 kph) and a gust of 82 mph (132 kph) at Naples Municipal Airport, and a sustained wind of 63 mph (102 kph) and a gust of 84 mph (135 kph) at Opa-Locka Executive Airport.

— Miami-Dade County announced a curfew between 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Monday.

— Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has expanded a state of emergency to include all 159 Georgia counties, Deal’s office said. The decision was made in advance of heavy rains, strong winds and potential flooding from Hurricane Irma. The state government will be closed Monday and Tuesday except for essential personnel.

— The forecast track for Irma has shifted 15 miles east, the National Hurricane Center said. But it’s still not clear exactly when or where on the Florida mainland Irma will make landfall — meaning half the hurricane’s eye is over land.

“With the eye tracking this close to land, everyone needs to be prepared for the worst possible conditions,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

— More than 1.69 million electric customers across 31 counties are without power, Florida Power and Light said Sunday morning.

— Miami-Dade officers can no longer respond to calls for service, the Miami-Dade Police Department tweeted Sunday. Police are urging residents to stay indoors and not venture outside.

— A 6 p.m. curfew has been put in place for Tampa. Manatee County officials announced a curfew from 3 p.m. ET Sunday until 3 p.m. ET Monday.

— A storm surge warning wraps around the state, from Brevard County to Tampa Bay.

 At least 24 deaths have been blamed on Irma in the Caribbean islands, where it hit before barreling toward Florida.

‘You can’t survive these storm surges’

The governor warned some storm surges could be deadly.

“You can’t survive these storm surges,” he said.

Track Hurricane Irma’s path

Those who did not evacuate ahead of the storm are in danger, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Saturday.

“You’re on your own until we can actually get in there and it’s safe,” he told CNN.

Gas stations on Florida’s west coast are running out of fuel

But Key West business owner Jason Jonas said he stayed behind because he’s in a home that is “built like a bunker.”

“It’s pretty much the only reason I considered staying here because I knew that I had a pretty good chance of making it through this thing,” he said.

“We’re 30 plus feet above sea level and in a place that’s built to withstand 225 mph winds — I mean that’s a better chance than being exposed out on the highway in traffic trying to make it to Georgia.”

Mass evacuations jammed highways heading north and created a severe gas shortage in some parts the state.

Irma hit Cuba’s Ciego de Avila province late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane before it weakened and headed to the US.

This is the the first year on record that the continental US has had two Category 4 hurricane landfalls in the same year.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of coastal Texas and killed more than 70 people.

Other cities will get pummeled

Several Florida cities are in or near the forecast path of the storm’s eye.

Tampa mayor: ‘We’re about to get punched in the face’

The storm will be devastating for central Florida, Tampa, Fort Myers and Key West, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

What’s with all these hurricane forecast models?

In Fort Myers, where storm surge warnings are in effect, Evanson Ngai stayed up all night, tracking the hurricane.

“I’ve tried to get some sleep but I can’t. Just the nervousness, trying to keep an eye on it to see if its track will change,” he said.

Ngai plans to crouch in the bathtub when the storm makes landfall.

“Right now, it’s a little bit of gusty winds and some rain,” he said early Sunday. “We’ve moved everything away from windows. We’re hoping for the best — we’ve bought nonperishable foods and water, and we have a flashlight.”

Florida Power and Light estimated 3.4 million of its customers could be without power at some point during Irma, the company’s largest number of outages ever.

“We think this could be the most challenging restoration in the history of the US,” company spokesman Chris McGrath said.

Other states may be affected

As Irma moves inland, more than 45 million people will face tropical storm conditions — meaning winds will top 39 mph, Maue said. Affected states include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands.

The National Weather Service in Atlanta issued a tropical storm watch for the area Monday and Tuesday. Schools in the state planned to close Monday.

Are you affected by Irma? Text, iMessage or WhatsApp your videos, photos and stories to CNN (but only if it’s safe to do so): +1 347-322-0415.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Tells Residents: ‘You Need to Go Right Now’

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FLORIDA  —  Gov. Rick Scott implored Floridians on Saturday to heed their local evacuation orders.

“If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” he said at a morning press conference. “Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now.”

Scott told residents of southwest Florida they needed to be evacuate by noon. If they weren’t on the road at that point, he said, “Do not get on the road.”

An estimated 6.3 million people have been ordered to evacuate, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Residents of the Miami area and the Florida Keys streamed north in packed vehicles Friday, anxiously rushing to dodge Hurricane Irma as the deadly storm took aim at their state after devastating the Caribbean.

The dramatic mass exodus from South Florida could become one of the largest evacuations in US history, CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen said. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are home to about 6 million people combined.

But by Saturday, Irma’s path had shifted toward Florida’s west coast, threatening the lower Florida Keys and cities such as Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa, and the clock is ticking for those who haven’t left yet, officials warned.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Saturday morning that 14 shelters are opening in the area to take in evacuees.

“Obviously, there will be people who think they can ride this out. We hope they will be OK,” Buckhorn said. “I will tell you that if the winds are consistently at 40 miles an hour or greater, our police and firefighters cannot come to get you. So if you’re going to stay, hunker down.”

After battering Cuba, Irma was expected to strengthen again before it hits the Florida Keys.

“Based on what we know, the majority of Florida will have major hurricane impact and deadly winds. We expect this along the entire east coast and west coast,” the governor said at a Friday news conference. “All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate.”

On the road

On Friday, motorists braved clogged roads, backups and slowdowns to get out. Drivers waited for hours at gas stations, some of which ran out of fuel. The Florida Highway Patrol escorted fuel tankers so they could reach and resupply gas stations, the agency said.

Travel hot spots included Interstates 10, 95 and 75, and Florida’s Turnpike. Troopers monitored roadways, stepping in to help after fender benders and with disabled cars and trucks.

Yesenia Rivera left the Jacksonville Beach area Friday and, 3½ hours later, was traveling west on I-10 near Lake City. “There is still severe congestion and stop-and-go traffic all the way to Tallahassee,” she told CNN.

Transportation officials said Friday long areas of congestion were occurring on segments of I-75 northbound and I-95 northbound.

There was bumper-to-bumper traffic late Friday in the northbound lanes of I-95 south of Savannah, Georgia, CNN senior producer Bill Kirkos reported.

He said the parking lots of gas stations and truck stops were filled with parked cars, although it appeared stations had gas supplies and short lines.

Heading in the opposite direction, toward Florida, were utility trucks with out-of-state license plates, Kirkos said.

By Saturday morning, the Florida Department of Transportation said traffic had lessened.

The Georgia Department of Transportation suspended construction on interstates and state routes due to the expected surge of traffic.

In Florida, mandatory evacuation orders covered parts of Miami-Dade County, Broward County east of US 1, Palm Beach County, low-lying parts of Brevard County, coastal and low-lying areas of Jacksonville and Duval County, and Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys.

The evacuation of Miami-Dade County was the largest in its history, with an estimated 660,000 people asked to leave, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday.

‘You could die’

Some people heard officials’ dire admonitions loud and clear.

“If you don’t heed the warning, you could die,” Don Anderson of Key Largo told CNN on Friday. “This is your life. What’s it worth? You can always party later.”

Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN on Saturday morning that going just a few miles inland could beneficial for those in coastal areas.

“Go to friends, go to families, go to the shelters that are open,” he said. “But if you are planning to go long distance, leave early and give yourself time. And that is running out.”

Flying out of the storm zone

Some Floridians opted to fly instead of risking chaos on the highways. Delta Air Lines added flights out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West to Atlanta, its largest hub, and allowed passengers affected by Irma to rebook flights for free, the airline said.

American and United also waived change fees for passengers affected by Irma, the airlines said.

But Irma’s impending landfall forced airlines serving some of the nation’s largest airports to begin to shut down operations this weekend.

By late Saturday, Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale — home to the 12th, 13th and 21st largest US airports, respectively — were expected to be largely dormant, and will halt operations through Sunday. Jacksonville and Tampa international airports both announced they would cease operations Saturday night.

Stranded at the airport

Kevin Brokbals, who hails from Germany, was among several dozen people who spent the night on cots at the Miami airport. He planned to be stuck for a while and said airport officials hadn’t given much sense of his options.

“The airport didn’t tell us anything,” he said Friday. “We asked some police officers to give us any information because there was no one officially from the airport.”

First, he and others were told they had to leave the airport and head to a shelter. Then they were told all shelters were full.

“And we have to stay here,” he said. “We can’t stay upstairs because there are too many windows, too (much glass) which can break. And that’s why they want all the people in one area, even though it’s not a shelter.”

More than 54,000 residents were in 320 shelters across the Florida, according to the governor’s office Saturday. More shelters were expected to open throughout the day.

Leila Traversoni of Argentina was visiting Miami to shop for a wedding dress and a tuxedo for her fiancé. The couple are desperate to get back home; they’ve never been through a hurricane.

“I am very afraid,” Traversoni told CNN on Friday. “I am terrified. I don’t know what to do. We don’t have any place to go. We are looking for a shelter.”

Traversoni said she’s hoping for an answer from American Airlines or airport staff.

“We don’t know what to expect,” she said. “We are really, really terrified because we don’t know what to do, where to go — just praying at this point.”

Hunkering down

Others planned to stay put to protect their homes.

“I evacuated Matthew,” one Merritt Island resident said, referring to last year’s hurricane. “I feel this is going to be a Category 2 or 3 by the time it hits us. I’ve got a pretty strong home, so I’m pretty confident it will survive.”

Wary of tornadoes, though, he said he could change his plans if it looks like Irma is strengthening.

“I’m watching the weather and the news and keeping track with the storm,” he said.

Scott Abraham, who lives on the 11th floor of a building in Miami Beach, said he is prepared to ride it out.

“I have been here 15 years and been through so many storms. We have been told many times to evacuate,” Abraham said. “I don’t think it’s going to hit us directly. If it does, I think we are safe. We have food. We have supplies. We have everything we need.

“We are ready to rock ‘n’ roll with the storm,” he said.

Another South Floridian, Linda Blackshear, also planned to stay. She doesn’t live in an evacuation zone, she said, and her grandson lives with her.

“I feel safe,” she said, adding she has no place to evacuate to. “I have all the supplies and all the essentials.”