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Hurricane Irma: People return to water-logged Florida, face traffic jams

Some people who were expecting a nightmare decided it was better to brave it than to wait

AP| PTI  |  Atlanta 

US Air force personnel evacuate citizens aboard an aircraft after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin.(Photo: AP|PTI)
US Air force personnel evacuate citizens aboard an aircraft after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin. (Photo: AP|PTI)

With Irma having weakened into inland rainstorms, Floridians are beginning a mass back to a battered, water-logged state where millions remains without power.

But traffic maps, social media reports, gasoline trackers and the ever-reliable eye test all say it isn't an easy trip yesterday and won't be in the days ahead.


"As soon as we hit the state line, it was and accidents," said Elizabeth Priore of Fort Lauderdale, as she continued her return drive from Alpharetta, Georgia, late yesterday afternoon.

Priore said she had managed to find gas and open restaurants along the way, and she said Interstate 95 south of Jacksonville was "moving well."

But traffic cameras elsewhere in the state, particularly along Interstate 75 where it meets the Turnpike 60 miles north of Orlando, showed gridlock.

"We were expecting a nightmare," Priore said, explaining that she decided it was better to brave it than to wait. Other Floridians are opting to wait it out, fearing the congestion, lane closures, fender benders, shuttered restaurants and gas stations without fuel.

Naples : An American flag is torn as Hurricane Irma passes through Naples, Fla. Photo: AP/PTI
Naples : An American flag is torn as Hurricane Irma passes through Naples, Fla. Photo: AP/PTI
"We're not leaving until Thursday because of the gas situation," said Nick Westbrook, a Coral Gables resident who has settled in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife and children.

"We have friends on the road, and they're letting us know it's just what I feared it would be."

Adam Bolanos, a high school teacher from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says he's talking to neighbours and friends on the road, particularly about fuel access. "The shortage is very real," he said.

Bolanos and his family, a three-car caravan with multiple generations and pets, also is waiting in Tennessee.

Gov Rick Scott and other authorities are urging evacuees not to be in a rush to return, particularly those who live in the hardest-hit areas, from Key West and the southwest coastline near Naples to the flooded neighbourhoods of Jacksonville in state's northeast corner.

As power crews dispersed yesterday, an estimated 15 million Floridians, about 5.6 million residential and commercial customers were without electricity. Bridges were being inspected around the state, power outages left traffic signals inoperable on key surface roads, and some roadways remained closed due to standing water, downed power lines or debris.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, September 13 2017. 17:04 IST
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