Editor’s Note: If you’re a Mainer or former Mainer in the path of Hurricane Irma and are willing to speak with us, we’d like to tell your story. Email [email protected] and we will be in touch.

Mainers who relocated to Florida may have reasoned that they were leaving most of their weather worries behind, trading frigid blasts of Arctic cold and blizzards for balmy trade breezes in the Sunshine State.

But in recent days, they’ve been obsessing over and preparing for the worst, as Hurricane Irma promises widespread destruction and state officials issue evacuation orders for all of South Florida, and activate thousands of National Guard troops. Thousands of residents already have fled for points north, while others stock up on supplies, food and water to get ready for Irma’s potentially deadly path.

‘NO CHOICE FOR US’

Brian Coddens and Deena Eskew, known as Hoss and Mary, are staying put in Key West rather than risk a stormy trip on the Overseas Highway. ‘I don’t want to use the word ‘stuck,’ but there’s no choice for us now,’ Coddens said. They operate a food truck in Key West called Hoss and Mary’s Tasty Grub. Photo courtesy of Brian Coddens and Deena Eskew

Brian Coddens and Deena Eskew opted to stay in Key West when early forecasts suggested that Hurricane Irma was likely to head up the east coast of the state towards Miami, more than 100 miles northeast of the Keys, where they run a food truck.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘stuck,’ but there’s no choice for us now. We’ve got to stay,” Coddens, known as “Hoss,” said Friday after officials suggested that everyone in the Florida Keys who were going to evacuate should have already been on their way as the storm nears Florida. Coddens said the couple is staying because they don’t want to get caught out in the open on the Overseas Highway, a combination of bridges and low-lying roads connecting the Keys to mainland Florida, when the wind and rain pick up.

Coddens and his wife, Deena Eskew, ran ‘Hoss and Mary’s Tasty Grub’ in Old Orchard Beach until 2008, when they decided to return to Key West, where they met in the 1980s. They opened a food truck earlier this summer, also named Hoss and Mary’s – Eskew got her nickname when she worked at a place called “Hamburger Mary’s” and Coddens got his when he was “a big friendly guy in San Antonio. Everyone there is called Hoss.”

The food truck has been moved to a safer location by an investor, where they hope it won’t be damaged, and they’re unlikely to reopen until late next week at the earliest, Coddens said. The couple plans to take their two cats to the home of a woman they know in Key West who is originally from Kennebunkport. Coddens said her house is one of the few that stayed dry in 1998, when Hurricane Georges inundated the island with rain and a storm surge.

The couple spent Friday bringing in items from their small yard and putting belongings already inside their house on shelves.

Coddens said Key West feels like a ghost town. The hospital is shut and officials have warned that any 911 calls will cease to be answered.

“For the last decade, Mary and I have dreamed about this,” Coddens said. “The best time of the year in Key West is September, when it’s quieter, it’s a little bit cooler and there’s not as many people around, but unfortunately, it looks like this storm is coming directly at us.”

‘WE’RE GOING TO RIDE IT OUT’

Tom Wriggins is pretty sure that Irma isn’t taking dead aim at him or his family in Naples, so they’re staying put as the storm approaches Florida.

Wriggins, who spent summers in Maine as a child and lived in Nobleboro from 2006 until last December, said his house in Florida is built to withstand all but the strongest storms. It’s made of cinderblock and the roof was replaced a couple of years ago and is guaranteed to withstand winds up to 140 mph.

“We’re going to ride it out,” said Wriggins, who is married and has two children. Irma “keeps moving a little bit west and a little bit right and we can’t figure it out.”

Wriggins, whose family got a taste of tropical weather while living in Charleston, South Carolina, before they moved to Maine, said about three out of five people in Naples have already left. But many of the year-round residents and long-time Floridians have decided to stay put, preferring to deal with the weather rather than face the uncertainty of not knowing what kind of damage they might return to if they evacuate.

He also said his sister and her family don’t live too far away and plan to stay as well, and Wriggins wants to be nearby if they need help.

Wriggins said he’s closed his storm shutters, and helped neighbors get theirs ready. His family has also stocked up on bottled water, hooked up the generator and filled the gas tanks in their cars, which they have pulled into the garage.

“We’ve weathered storms in Charleston and up in Maine, nor’easters,” he said. Those experiences taught him that the people in the most danger during bad storms are those who venture outdoors in the worst weather.

Wriggins said his teenage daughter asked him why they were staying put when some of her friends were leaving, but he explained that their house was solid, they were prepared and they needed to stick around in case relatives or neighbors needed help.

“That’s what storms and natural disasters do – they bring us together,” he said.

‘A PRICE TO PAY’ FOR THE SUNSHINE STATE

Alexis LaChance had just moved to Florida and was still settling in when she started getting word about a rite of passage for everyone who moves there: Preparing for a hurricane.

The 22-year-old from Winslow started her job as an anatomy and physiology teacher and athletic trainer at a high school in DeLand in August, not long before Hurricane Irma started to form in the Atlantic.

She spent Friday bringing in furniture and other loose items from the balcony of her second-floor apartment. She also returned some valuables to the same totes she had used to move them down to Florida last month.

She’s also stocked up on water and food and has been freezing water in baggies to keep her refrigerator cool if the power goes out –– and for more drinking water if she needs them after the storm passes.

LaChance, a University of Maine graduate, said she applied for the teaching job in Florida when she learned a friend who had held that position was returning to Maine. Although the storm has her and her family back in Maine worried, LaChance said she’s still excited about starting a new job in a new area.

“My family was happy for me to start this new experience and it (the hurricane) hasn’t dimmed anything at all,” she said. “It has definitely been stressful and worrisome but I have amazing co-workers and family members who have been by my side to help me with preparations. I know it’s a price to pay for being in a more tropical environment and my family knows that as well.”

LaChance said her school canceled a football game that had been planned for Thursday night and classes have been canceled for Friday and at least through Monday. The school is a hurricane shelter, she said, so she may go there or to stay with relatives in Lakeland – between Orlando and Tampa – over the weekend when the storm is at its worst.

‘GOT OUT OF DODGE’

Dan Corey, who owns a farm in Florida and several farms in Maine, returned from Florida a few days earlier than he’d planned because of the coming hurricane. This photo is from his farm in Monticello, Maine. Photo courtesy of Don Corey

Dan Corey said he “got out of Dodge Thursday” after paying a brief visit to Florida.

Corey owns farms in both Maine and Florida and said he spent a few days in St. Augustine this week to check on his house and property there before coming back to Maine a few days earlier than he planned.

He said he lost a dock and a deck from the Florida house last year when Hurricane Matthew hit, so he had hurricane-resistant windows installed. The new deck and dock meet tougher building standards that should help them withstand a hurricane if Irma remains strong after it travels north through the state.

“They told me it was coming last time, but I didn’t think it was that bad and I learned a lesson,” he said.

Corey said he also had his vehicles moved inland – he lost a pickup truck during Matthew – and also made sure his heavy farm equipment is in the fields on his farm in Elkton. He said they will fare better there than in some less stable farm building that could get blown down in the hurricane.

Corey said his whole family, including three grown children, is in Maine, where he owns 3,000 acres in Aroostook County. He said he’ll harvest grain once the fields dry out and then start to get the potatoes out of the ground. He plants potatoes in Florida in late December or early January, and doesn’t expect the storm to interrupt his smaller operation there.

AWAITING WORD TO EVACUATE

Janet Nelson had the day off Friday from her job as a banker. Her employer, Mississippi-based Hancock Bank, closed all its branches and offices to give employees time to get ready for the storm and Nelson, who is originally from West Bath, made the most of it.

She and her husband brought in larger items from outdoors, made sure the car was gassed up and packed a bag and put it in the car, along with a crate for her dog.

“We’re preparing as much as we can,” said Nelson. People with special needs in her part of Tampa had already been told to evacuate and they expected to get word Friday or Saturday whether they would need to leave themselves. If so, she said, they won’t fight the traffic jams on the highway that have already turned Florida interstates into parking lots –– a brother-in-law who lives on higher ground nearby has invited them to ride out the storm with his family.

Nelson said her children from her first marriage are in Maine and her husband’s children are also scattered geographically, so they didn’t need to worry about making sure the children got to a safe place.

“They wanted me to get on a plane to fly home (to Maine), but that’s not going to happen,” she said.

Nelson said she would take a Maine blizzard over a hurricane any day.

“I feel like the stress level is higher with a hurricane than a nor’easter,” she said. “With a nor’easter, you just have to hunker down for a few days and with this, you don’t know if your house will be there.”

Nelson said she dealt with hurricanes in Florida when she lived in the state between 2001 and 2011, particularly in 2004, when four hurricanes hit the state.

But none grabbed her attention like Irma has, she said.

“This one is probably the first one ever that got my attention,” she said, “probably because (Hurricane Harvey in) Texas was recent.”

NOT KNOWING WHEN TO COME HOME

Nick Kimball said it wasn’t a tough call for him and his wife, Stacey, deciding whether to evacuate their home in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys.

He said from the storm’s beginning in the Atlantic, forecasters had projected that it would come near or over their community in the northeastern part of the chain of islands off Florida’s southern coast.

The Kimballs closed up their animal hospital – Stacey Kimball is a veterinarian – made sure the owners picked up their pets, packed up some critical equipment, tried to secure the rest and headed out Thursday night.

By midday Friday, he said, they were in Tallahassee, still about seven hours’ drive from their destination – Nashville, Tennessee, where Stacey Kimball’s parents live.

Kimball said they managed to avoid the worst traffic jams by sticking to state roads and staying off the interstates. Despite horror stories about long lines and gas stations running out of fuel, he said, they had to wait only about five minutes to get gassed up overnight.

Kimball grew up in Brunswick and lived in Portland after graduating from the University of Southern Maine. One day, with winter coming on, he decided to go stay with a relative in Florida, where he met the woman who became his wife and started putting down roots in Islamorada.

Kimball said it’s unnerving not knowing what damage they might come back to Most of the residents of Islamorada have also left, except for some police officers and firefighters and a handful of residents. The local grocery store owner vowed to stay open, offering the building as a shelter for those who stay behind, he said.

Kimball said he’s not sure how long he, his wife and their four cats and a dog will have to wait until they can return. A lot will depend on the conditions of the roads, he said.

But he’s certain Islamorada’s residents will pull together, Kimball said.

“It’s an amazing community down there,” he said. “We’re going to rebound from this.”

‘I WASN’T ABOUT TO LEAVE JOANIE ALONE’

Joan Hoag and Dave Murdoch, who live part of the year in Starks and the rest in a beach community west of Tampa, say they will see what Hurricane Irma does before they move to higher ground. Photo courtesy of Joan Hoag and Dave Murdoch

A couple who live part of the year in the Somerset County town of Starks and part of the year at Indian Rocks Beach, west of Tampa, Florida, plans to wait until late Saturday to evacuate to higher ground.

Dave Murdoch, 75, whose family settled in Industry in Franklin County in the 1800s and who later ran the Kennebec Volkswagen dealership in Augusta while living in East Monmouth, said he’s seen storms come and go. He was at the cabin in rural Starks until Wednesday night, he said, but returned to Florida to be with housemate Joan Hoag, 78, amid news of the big storm approaching.

“I’ve been through these myself and I wasn’t about to leave Joanie alone,” he said by phone Friday. “The main thing you’ve got to do is make sure there’s nothing that can be blown away. You take everything that will move and make sure it’s secure or behind walls so it can’t get blown away.”

Murdoch said they are in a flood zone at the beach and are prepared to move “a little higher” when the storm hits.

“It’s about 3 miles from here, but we’re not going to go until the last moment. We’re going to get both cars out of here and make sure nothing gets floated away.”

Hoag, who first came to live in Starks in 1983, said the weather Friday was still “very nice” with a little breeze and high humidity, but she could feel the pressure dropping.

Murdoch expects moving to higher ground will be sufficient to avoid the  storm surge at at Indian Rocks Beach, a community of about 4,000 people in Pinellas County.

“I’ve been through so many,” he said. “I know I take them too lightly compared to other people, but I’ve been through the devastation and I lived through hurricanes, so I know what I’m up against.”

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow and Press Herald Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]


FRIDAY: MAINERS IN IRMA’S PATH

Fear, trepidation and annoyance were the watch words for Maine natives living in Florida as they joined millions of residents, from Miami to Jacksonville, who are girding for the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

Irma weakened from a Category 5 storm to Category 4 on Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph, but it remains a powerful hurricane that already has created panic for people wondering if they and their families will be safer waiting out the looming disaster, or fleeing the high winds and torrential storm surge.

Those evacuating have faced gridlock on the interstates and pervasive gasoline shortages, as lanes of traffic filled with carloads of families sought refuge in points further north or west.

Those who have chosen to stay and ride out the storm have spent the last few days in lines at grocery stores, where shelves have already been picked nearly clean by worried shoppers stocking up on water, food and other emergency supplies.

“It is the price you pay for living in paradise,” said Troy Cunningham, who lives in Port St. Lucie, but was raised in Bath. “I’d rather live through a blizzard.”

DESTINATION UNKNOWN

Although Molly Ham and her boyfriend, Andrew Turkanis, live on the sixth floor of a modern Miami Beach apartment building with shatter-resistant windows, they rose early Thursday morning to heed the call from state and federal officials mandating they evacuate.

Molly Ham and her boyfriend, Andrew Turkanis, began driving north at 5 a.m. Thursday in an attempt to avoid Irma. Photo courtesy of Molly Ham

With much of South Florida facing a potential direct hit from Irma, the couple said they packed water and food into their diesel Volkswagen, and with a neighbor following behind in his own car, joined the lines of traffic headed north to Orlando. The four-hour trip turned into a much longer ordeal, they said, with crawling traffic, accidents and disabled vehicles that ran out of gas dotting the highway.

Lucky for them, Ham said, diesel fuel, while sold at fewer stations along the way, has been far easier to find than gasoline.

Ham, a preschool teacher at a private school in Miami Beach, said administrators followed the lead of Miami’s public schools and canceled classes Thursday and Friday, telling staff and parents they weren’t sure when classrooms would reopen.

The couple made a hotel reservation in Orlando for Thursday night, but by midday, their plans were shifting with the forecast. They do not know where they will end up by this weekend, Ham said.

“Weather’s always unpredictable, but northwest seems like the best bet,” said Ham, 25, who moved to Miami about two years ago. “The east coast is going to be worse.”

WEIGHING EVACUATION PROS AND CONS

Not all South Florida residents planned to evacuate – even with mandatory evacuation orders in place.

Brian Doe, 45, grew up in Gardiner and moved to Key West three years ago with his wife, after living there part time for almost a decade. He now handles the information technology for the Monroe County School District.

Doe said he planned to ride out the storm in Key West, and he spent much of Wednesday and Thursday protecting his windows – using a blend of lumber, screws and Gorilla-brand duct tape – and securing his outdoor furniture.

“One of the great worries is that anything that’s not tied down becomes a bullet,” he said.

Monroe County has issued a mandatory evacuation order for visitors and residents, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Despite that, Doe said he based his decision to stay in Key West on several factors.

The projected storm track has been shifting, so that its most destructive part was forecast on Thursday to strike Florida east of the Keys, near Miami. He also recognized the risks that could come from evacuation, including running out of gas, and reaching an area only to realize that it’s more dangerous than expected.

And his house, which is not inside the flood zones designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, didn’t flood during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Before the hurricane arrives, Doe plans to attend one last happy hour at the local bar. But he also stressed that he wasn’t taking the storm lightly. If he gets a bad feeling before it arrives, he has access to a commercial-grade building in which he, his wife and their pets could stay during the storm.

“Right now, I’m so focused on trying to protect my house and keeping my family safe,” he said. “… I might come across as lighthearted, but this is scary (stuff) right now. There’s no doubt about it. It is not a joke.”

Northbound traffic is backed up on Thursday in Sunrise, Fla. Associated Press

CONCERNS ABOUT SEPTIC SYSTEMS

Even residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast, where the hurricane is expected to be weaker than along the state’s Atlantic Coast, were making preparations for Irma’s arrival.

Jamie-Lee Roach, 33, said her neighbors in Tampa were digging out their generators and making sure they’re ready to run when the time comes.

Tampa is bracing for wind, rain and minor flooding – a far cry from the more dire prospects in Daytona, where her boyfriend has a home.

Roach, who moved from Belfast in January, said the couple will be joined by their two German shepherds, and they expect the Tampa Bay area to fare much better than towns to the east. Roach works at a Verizon call center and said that during her new-employee orientation her managers told her she had a greater chance of being hurt in a lightning storm than a hurricane.

She noted that at local grocery stores, the first aisle to be wiped bare was the one with snack foods. There was nary a potato chip in sight, she said.

Gasoline, even this far north, remains scarce, so even if Roach wanted to evacuate, she couldn’t, she said.

Her one-story ranch-style home is well-prepared with storm shutters, she said, but others in her neighborhood are most concerned about their septic tanks.

“They fill up with water, so we just had ours pumped. Some people haven’t had theirs pumped,” Roach said. “That’s going to be more of a problem. It floods up through their house.”

ANNOYANCE MORE THAN FEAR

Troy Cunningham, outside his home in Port St. Lucie on Thursday. The wood frame home has no storm shutters and more than 30 unprotected windows. He will likely shelter elsewhere, he said. Photo courtesy of Troy Cunningham

Troy Cummingham has done this before.

First with hurricanes Francis and Jeanne in 2004. Then Wilma the year after.

Now with Irma bearing down on his tile-roof home in Port St. Lucie, Cunningham is tired – of packing, of preparations, of the commotion.

“It’s like, ‘Oh I have to do this again,'” said Cunningham, originally from Bath. “I’m more annoyed than scared at the moment. Everything is totally disrupted. I can’t really go anywhere right now. I have to save the gas in the car if and when I have to get out.”

This time around he may have more to lose, because of the storm track and the way his home was constructed.

Port St. Lucie, on Florida’s east coast, could feel the brunt of the 150-mph winds, he said.

“It’s a bit like looking into a blender,” he said.

Cunningham’s home, a wood-frame single-story house with over 30 windows, has no storm shutters.

So he spent Thursday packing up his favorite pieces from his collection of cobalt blue glassware, disassembling his three crystal chandeliers and dragging the outdoor potted plants into the garage. Anything left outside becomes a potentially lethal projectile in a hurricane.

When the storm arrives in full force, he will likely flee to his stepson’s home, which is built of concrete block and impact-resistant windows.

“I know what a Category 3 can do,” he said. “But I don’t want to know what a Category 5 will do.”

RACING HOME TO PREPARE FOR DISASTER

Last year, Rebecca Rife’s husband was deployed with the Navy when Hurricane Matthew hit their Jacksonville neighborhood, leaving the former Caribou resident alone to juggle storm preparation and care for their two children.

Rife’s husband retired from the service in September 2016, but this year, she’s once again handling storm preparation alone while he races home from a cross-country motorcycle trip cut short by the impending storm.

“There was supposed to be another two weeks for his trip, but he’s coming back early,” Rife said.

And with good reason. Jacksonville is expecting flooding in addition to rain and intense wind, so she will have to secure their chickens, rabbits and other livestock on high ground or in safe places, in addition to covering their windows with the plywood they saved from last year.

The high winds could not come at a worse time for the family. They just completed a nearly $30,000 project installing solar panels on their roof. Electricity only began flowing this week, just in time for Irma to potentially blow it all away.

Her children, age 8 and 11, are trying to stay calm.

“There’s a buzz in the air down here, a lot of nerves, a lot of anxiousness,” said Rife, who moved from Caribou about 10 years ago. “It kind of reminds me of Black Friday. It’s an experience.”

EERIE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Andreas Galeati, 44, is used to a steady breeze blowing through his Delray Beach neighborhood.

But on Thursday afternoon, he noticed an eerie calm that he could not ignore.

“The trees and the leaves are kind of still here,” said Galeati, who lived in Orono for years. “When you’re on the coast you always have a zephyr, but it’s all kind of still. It’s creepin’ me out.”

Galeati said his greatest conflict has been whether to stay or go before the storm slams into his community. His urge to leave every material possession behind and flee has run headlong into the needs of his family: an elderly mother who does not want to travel, and a nephew who prefers not to leave, either.

They took a vote, and he was in the minority.

“I’m not in agreement with it,” Galeati said. “I’d rather get in the car and leave everything behind.”

So he did what he has done before, securing the metal storm shutters that are supposed to keep high pressure air from coming into the home and blowing the roof clean off.

He remembered last November, when a storm packing 85-mph winds had his house rocking back and forth.

“If we get hit with a Category 4 or a 5,” he said, “I don’t know what good (the shutters) are going to do.”

DECIDING TO NOT TAKE ANY CHANCES

It was a job offer, along with the promise of warmer weather, that took Liam Beliveau to Miami Beach a couple of years ago. The 30-year-old grew up in Hallowell and now works as a technical writer for a software company.

On Wednesday night, it was the weather that prompted Beliveau and his boyfriend to leave their condominium in South Beach – a part of the barrier islands that make up Miami Beach – and begin driving north. They plan to stay in an Airbnb rental in Savannah, Georgia, then with friends in Asheville, North Carolina.

After that, Beliveau said, he’s not sure when he’ll be able to return to Miami Beach and what will be waiting when he does. He’s heard about the damage from Hurricane Andrew, a devastating Category 5 storm that hit South Florida in 1992. He also helped with recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans a dozen years ago.

“I have this vague apprehension (that it will be like) St. Bernard’s Parish, where the levies broke,” he said. “Stores were boarded up. There were dead dogs in the street. It seemed like I was in a war zone. The shiny facade of South Beach is very glamorous, but a very powerful storm can destroy that in a matter of minutes, so I wasn’t going to take any chances.”

Of particular concern to Beliveau is the fact that a contractor was midway through installing windows on his boyfriend’s condo that are meant to withstand the heavy wind of hurricanes.

“The contractor put one set on, then went on vacation,” he said. “So our situation is a lot more precarious, because we have this exposed set of windows that are neither protected by shutters nor hurricane-grade windows. If we’re in the eye of Irma, there’s no question those windows are going to break, and (at the expected wind speed), the hurricane windows could smash too.”

CONCERNED FOR HERSELF, AND THE HOMELESS

Erika Heffernan, who grew up in Augusta, now lives in Key West, Fla., and evacuated her home ahead of Hurricane Irma. She was concerned about her clients at the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, where serves the homeless. Photo courtesy of Erika Heffernan

Erika Heffernan, 36, who grew up in Augusta, decided to leave her home in Key West as Hurricane Irma advanced. On Thursday, she was planning to stay at a hotel in Sunrise, which is between Miami and Fort Lauderdale and inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

By Thursday morning, the weather forecasts had been improving, with the originally projected storm surge downgraded to around 9 feet, Heffernan said, but that still would swamp her first-floor apartment.

“I’m kind of assuming there won’t be much to go back to,” she said. “I tried to take as many personal and sentimental items in my car as I could.”

In addition to her own living situation, Heffernan was concerned on Thursday about the well-being of roughly 70 clients she serves as a program manager at the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, a nonprofit that helps the homeless.

They were hoping to stay in shelters at Florida International University that were near her hotel, Heffernan said on Thursday, but she learned that the shelter would not be opening until Friday and she was worried that the shelter wouldn’t open at all.

“We have people who need meds, families with young children,” she said.

While the roads were not heavily used Thursday, Heffernan noted that some people had left their cars at the highest points on bridges, presumably hoping to avoid flood damage.

“It’s such a weird experience,” she said. “I lived through four hurricanes in Orlando. This is a totally different animal, being on an island.”

HOPING FOR THE BEST

Roxanne and Margo Ellis, who live in Key West, also planned to ignore the mandatory evacution orders and brave the hurricane at a friend’s house.

Roxanne grew up in Waterville, and both lived there together until 1993, when they moved to Key West for the tropical weather. Roxanne, 67, used to own a cigar business there. Margo, 66, worked as a teacher until retiring this year.

They plan to spend Hurricane Irma in a friend’s house that is rated to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, Margo said, but she didn’t know which agency bestowed that rating.

They, too, have been securing their windows, using metal shutters specifically designed to withstand storms, and stocking up on nonperishable food.

Their home is elevated about 3 feet off the ground, on cinder blocks, and didn’t flood during Hurricane Wilma, Margo said. And like many homeowners in the area, they had to purchase flood insurance in order to secure a mortgage.

“We’re watching the (storm’s) track and hoping for the best,” she said. “We’re worried. We thought about leaving, but then didn’t. At this point, it looks like Miami may get worse. It’s not going to be fun. Hurricane parties are fun to think about, but it’s frightening when they’re here.”

THINKING ABOUT THOSE WHO STAYED BEHIND

Nick Courant, who grew up in Waterville, fled his home in Big Pine Key to get out of the path of Hurricane Irma. Photo courtesy of Nick Courant

Nick Courant, 20, and his two roommates decided to leave the home they rent in Big Pine Key on Wednesday.

Before that, they storm-proofed their low-lying house, elevating furniture onto cinder blocks, sandbagging the outside and packing their most important possessions into their cars.

Courant was born in Waterville and grew up in Topsham. He moved to South Florida to be near his then-girlfriend. He now works as an auto mechanic.

Like the others who were evacuating, Courant wasn’t sure where he’ll be staying in the days and weeks to come. He said he might try to leave Florida entirely and get a hotel room in Alabama. He also might take up the offer to stay with friends and family.

But the safety of others is what’s weighing on his mind.

“I’m very worried about some of my friends who decided to stay behind,” he said.

Staff Writer Charles Eichacker contributed to this story. He can be contacted at 621-5642 or at: Twitter: twitter.com/ceichacker