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Hurricane Irma: Nervous Floridians chased across the state by powerful storm as emergency crews prepare

By North America Correspondent Conor Duffy in Florida, Sunday September 10, 2017 - 11:02 EST
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John and JB Aleman are set to evacuate their Miami Beach home. - ABC

Being evacuated once is bad enough but when we catch up with John and JB Aleman they are doing it for the second time.

John Aleman — her family has a tradition of naming children after the buddy of a paternal grandfather — is a city commissioner and she set an example by heeding evacuation orders and heading for Tampa.

"We've been preparing for Hurricane Irma for about a week," she said.

"We live on Miami Beach and so the mayor issued a voluntary evacuation early.

"We knew Hurricane Irma has a big storm surge and so we wanted to make sure we got out of the way of that."

The problem is Irma's route took a westward turn overnight meaning Naples, Fort Meyers and Tampa are now directly in the storm's path.



John, JB, their two sons and dogs packed up the gasoline, water and emergency supplies and headed back for Miami.

Their own home is still under threat from the storm surge so they are staying at a friend's boarded-up home in a safer spot.

"That's been the problem with this hurricane is the hurricane cone, the forecast cone, really was over the entire state for the better part of a week," John said.

"So we have friends that have evacuated to Orlando, to Atlanta, to New York, a lot of folks went to Tampa.

"So then as the storm has shifted folks are sort of shuffling around the state."

Stress and anxiety are creeping in as the first bands of rain arrive.



"Anxious, anxious, we drove through one tiny little feeder band on the way," she said.

"It was very dark, it was very gusty. I couldn't really see through the rain, the visibility was terrible and that was an outlier band — really nothing — so I had tremendous anxiety all the way back.

"I'm really glad now that we're going to go inside, get off the roads."

We leave John and JB to take refuge in the boarded house and head to a local shelter at the Shenandoah Middle School.

There is a sign on the door saying it is at capacity and that is playing out across the city.

"We got here actually last night at like five in the morning," Brooke said.

"They took us to like three other shelters before this one because all the other shelters were at the full capacity."



As the storm gets closer she is also increasingly anxious.

"It's pretty nerve-racking because, like I said, [in] 1992 we had Andrew and I was a baby and it destroyed Miami and this is like way worse," she said.

At the shelter police, federal emergency workers, army and firefighters are all helping out.



Captain Igantius Carroll is helping coordinate the emergency medical care from the fire service who will try and treat people at shelters rather than risk a dangerous move in the storm for help.

Most of these brave firefighters have their own families to worry about too.

"As any first responder you're committed to serving your community but we're also concerned about our loved ones as well," Captain Carroll said.

"So often we do our best to try and prepare them while we're out here working.

"Sometimes we try and get them out of the city. But as you can imagine, first responders that you see out here now will be [here] until Monday or Tuesday (local time) depending on how long this storm will travel through Florida."



Planning for a disaster of this magnitude is incredibly difficult — even with the threat in Miami having eased Captain Carroll says his team have a big job.

"Obviously this storm is of a larger magnitude than what anybody has ever seen so you can imagine our concern because you're not only dealing with the weather, rain, winds but you're also dealing with structure collapse," he said.

"You're also not sure what the streets will look like once the storm has passed and that may be very difficult for us to respond to calls because streets are blocked."

Florida has a long and difficult night ahead.


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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