Gainesville residents are bracing for the worst as Hurricane Irma creeps closer to Florida’s coast, but some UF students would rather be closer to the storm.
Hurricane Irma has veering toward the west coast of Florida and is expected to make landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Tropical storm force winds have already been recorded in the Keys, and thousands have lost power in Miami-Dade County on Saturday morning, according to the Miami Herald. The storm has also caused extensive damage in the Caribbean, according to the New York Times.
Sarah Mar, a 19-year-old UF nursing sophomore, chose not to go home to her family in Cutler Bay, located in Miami-Dade County, because she worried about not being able to return to Gainesville in time for classes, which have been canceled through Monday.
Mar’s home is in a mandatory evacuation zone, and her family has already relocated to her grandparents’ house in Miami Lakes.
“I kind of wish this would have happened in high school so I would have at least been there,” Mar said.
Jared Machado, a UF political science sophomore, would have driven into the storm – if he had a way to.
“It sucks that my whole family is down there and I’m the only one – the only family member – that’s out of Miami right now,” the 19-year-old said.
Students at UF without a car have limited ways to get home in a crisis, he said. Machado said his family decided it was best for him to stay in Gainesville while they wait out the storm in West Miami.
“They don’t call them natural disasters for no reason,” Machado said. “You don’t know what to expect.”
While his travel limitations keep him in Gainesville for now, Machado said he will return to Miami if the need arises.
“If my family needs me, I’m on the next bus, plane, whatever,” he said. “I’m going back down there to help.”
The threat presented by Irma has brought comparison with Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida with 168 mph winds and destroyed hundreds of homes, according to the Miami Herald. As of Friday night, the sustained wind speeds of Irma are 155 mph.
“Miami’s strong,” he said. “The people there are strong. They’re optimistic about it, which makes me feel a little bit better.”