Trinidad and Tobago nationals are among thousands of Florida residents bracing themselves for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma which is due to make landfall in the United States by tomorrow.
Evacuation orders took effect yesterday, principally in south Florida where Miami is expected to take a direct hit from the monster storm. Newsday found it difficult to contact Trinidadians in Miami where many calls went unanswered.
However, a Trinidadian who lives in Orlando, a city in central Florida, told Newsday she and her family were “hanging in there”.
Natasha Blackman, originally from Barataria, said she has gathered as many things as she could for her family ahead of Irma’s approach.
“We have three cases of water, other non perishable items, flashlights, coolers. We have packed our suitcases just in case we have to evacuate but for now we are staying calm. We don’t expect anything to happen until Saturday.” She said other family members, who live in south Miami, have already evacuated and have gone “north”.
Blackman said supermarkets have started running out of supplies. “You are lucky if you can get bread and peanut butter and the stores have started putting up signs on their doors that they don’t have water, batteries, canned goods,” she said. She said a truck brought water for people yesterday afternoon but since she had already stocked up for her family she left it for those who were in need.
“We are just a family of three. There are people with families of five and above who need it more than us.”
Blackman, who has lived in Orlando for eight years, said while Irma was not her first hurricane, it was the first of this magnitude.
“We had Hurricane Matthew last year. Compared to what we are hearing and seeing going on with Irma, Matthew was very mild. We just had a lot of rain and wind but nothing to really cause any kind of damage.” Automated voice messages came on when Newsday placed calls to the TT Consulate in Miami.
Some nationals however were able to fly out of Florida ahead of the storm’s landfall. A Caribbean Airlines flight departed Ft Lauderdale and was due to arrive at Piarco at 11 pm yesterday.
A relative of one passenger said he had to drive from Miami to Ft Lauderdale as there were many cancellations at that airport.
In anticipation of Irma’s landfall in Florida this weekend, CAL yesterday announced the cancellation of 12 flights on Sunday originating in or departing from Port-of-Spain; Kingston and Montego Bay in Jamaica; Nassau in The Bahamas; Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando in Florida.
CAL said customers will be permitted to change or cancel their reservations without penalty once they have tickets issued before September 10, and must request refunds by September 17. Passengers who choose to change their reservations, must complete their travel by September 17.