Countdown to Irma: Mainers in Florida 'anxious'

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“Things are getting real around here,” Helen Brown in Englewood, Florida, said as Saturday brought ominous news for those the state.

Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall Sunday morning, bringing winds upward of 100 mph.

Brown, originally from South Paris, said Irma is heading right for her neighborhood, and the time for evacuation has passed.

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“Roads are clogged and gas is iffy,” she said. “The last thing anyone wants is to get stuck in the storm’s path on an empty tank.”

With Irma so close, those who decided to stay must now hunker down and wait it out.

That includes Heather White, formerly of Norway and now in Sebastian, Florida.

“Anxious is the best way to describe everyone’s mood,” she said. “Waiting for the storm to get here and pass so we can begin any clean up and move on with life.”

John Snowe, an Auburn native, moved to Fort Pierce, Florida, 10 years ago. He said for a while it looked like he and his wife would be in the direct path of Irma, and were begged by their Maine families to evacuate. But then the path of the storm changed, and they decided to stay.

“In the summer of 2016, we replaced our windows, doors, and garage door with Miami-Dade county impact-rated products,” he said. “In 2009 or so, we replaced our roof with concrete tiles meeting current building codes. We hope that these upgrades will pay off.”

Sharon Goding, formerly of Chesterville, lives in Englewood and works at Allstate Insurance Agency. She said Florida homeowners get credit for how well their roof is prepared for a hurricane. Good news, as long as the policy was set up before reports of Irma rolled in.

Goding said that as early as Monday, insurance companies were shutting down, much like what happened to Texans before hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area.

“You couldn’t add to or change your policy; couldn’t even add a car onto your insurance,” Goding said, “unless the policy was brand new. Some people actually closed on houses this week. But besides that, nothing.”

In her office, Goding said she and her co-workers took everything out of the attic in case the roof blows off, removed computers, and other items.

“And we’re all keeping in touch,” she said.

Feelings of camaraderie and community weren’t restricted to Goding’s Allstate office. Buy, Sell and Swap pages on Facebook and other websites contain offers from community members to help storm-proof homes. Some are asking for $15 or so, others offer to do it for free.

“Surprisingly I have only experienced people’s good side during all of this,” White said. “Don’t get me wrong, we have some people who can be crabby, but for the most part people have been kind and generous to us with all of our questions, and my husband’s fellow coaches offered to come over at the drop of a hat to help with the hurricane-proofing of the house.”

With many families here in Maine thinking of their loved ones in Florida, Goding reminds them all of one important fact to remember.

“We’re tough. We’re Mainers,” she said. 

emarquis@sunmediagroup.net

Heather and Rick White in Sebastian, FL are staying positive with a message to their friends and family in Maine on their boarded up house. The couple moved from Rumford and were joined by her mother, Terri Wakefield, formerly of Oxford.

A neighborhood in Melbourne, Florida, is flooded Saturday afternoon as elements of Hurricane Irma begin descending on the state. 

Dundee Pratt, originally from Norway and now of Sebring, Florida, has her back windows boarded up in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

Some Floridians made their lawns a priority during the calm before the storm.

A business in Port Charlotte, Florida, is boarded up as Hurricane Irma approaches the state. 

Wind blows across Florida palm trees Saturday afternoon as Hurricane Irma draws closer. 

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