Millions of people continued to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Irma, already responsible for at least 10 deaths and widespread devastation, neared Florida and other southeast states. Thousands of them crowded freeways, but the lucky few were flying out of state.
At LaGuardia Airport, those who managed to book flights were arriving with suitcases full of luggage on Thursday. Many of them had tales of trying to escape ahead of the storm.
Ethan Jacoby, of Miami, says he tried to fly from Orlando and Atlanta, but everything was booked. He was driving near Jacksonville Airport when he got a call from his father.
“My gas was running a little bit low, so I pulled over and I filled up,” Jacoby said. “I get a call from my dad, and he says I can get you a ticket out of Jacksonville. You can leave tomorrow. So that was a huge relief.”
Some passengers had to leave family behind. Andrea Morgan, from Deerfield Beach, was among them. Her family lives in the evacuation zone east of U.S. 1, a route on the east coast of Florida that’s less than a mile from the ocean in many spots.
“Very, very scary,” Morgan said. “My husband is a firefighter, so he’s on duty. And he’ll be on duty until they say, ‘Okay, you can go.’ So I’m scared for him.”
Those who have fled worry that their family back home won’t be able to find gas, food and water before Irma hits. They’re also wondering when they’ll be able to return home after the powerful storm rolls through.
“I’m hoping to leave Monday,” said Amanda Leo, of Jacksonville. “But it does seem unlikely considering, right now, I don’t think planes can fly on Monday, so we’ll just kind of see.”
One woman at LaGuardia was forced to come to New York at the last minute for work. Her bosses were worried their offices in Florida would lose power. She said she’ll be working out of the city for the time being, and that she packed the biggest bag she has with whatever she could.