A former Boston man living in Florida is battening down the hatches as Hurricane Irma – which has caused a huge amount of destruction and resulted in nine deaths so far in the Caribbean – moves towards the US coast.
Andy Sandall, 45, emigrated to the US in 2004 and moved to Florida to work as the executive director of Orlando’s Museum of Arts and Sciences in 2008.
He has lived at Daytona Beach since 2012.
Predictions currently say the storm will hit the area in the early hours of Monday morning.
Andy told The Standard: “Right now the warnings are heading our way and everyone is obsessed with the regular hurricane tracker updates to see if it the storm is going to head out east into the ocean or not. We are a couple of days out from any effects of it so most people are preparing their homes and businesses today and most will stay home or head out of town tomorrow or early Saturday I would guess. No mandatory evacuations yet but “I’d expect the coastal part of Daytona Beach will probably be evacuated on Saturday because of possible storm surges.”
Andy, who lives three miles inland on the western edge of town, says he won’t be impacted by the storm surge but says the mainland will be affected if the river rises and floods the lower parts of the city.
He said: ”Most people in the city could weather the storm as the houses here are built to deal with this kind of thing, but many people will leave just because it’s guaranteed we’ll lose power for the duration of the storm and for some time afterwards – and life without air conditioning here is pretty unbearable given it’s still up around the low 30C mark this time of year.
“I saw a few people filling up with petrol this morning, obviously driving up from South Florida and on their way out of state.
“We expect the big rush to start tomorrow and into Saturday as the mandatory evacuations kick in.
“We have some lines at the petrol stations here but most places have supplies still and things like bottled water are being brought in daily so it’s not too bad just yet. That’ll changed on Saturday though.”
Andy has already made a number of preparations, including stocking up on bottled water and non-perishable food, filling both of his bathtubs with water to be used for flushing toilets, and putting anything valuable into safe places.
He said that once the museum was locked down he too would be heading out of state.
“I was lucky enough to be start planning far enough ahead to be able to get a hotel in Atlanta - nothing spectacular but at least somewhere to stay,” he told The Standard
“When I booked on Tuesday it said the city already had 97 per cent hotel occupancy and that’s somewhere several hours outside of Florida!
“I couldn’t find anything in the smaller cities closer to the border as they were snapped up really quickly.
“Lots of people are planning on heading to relatives and friends out of state and waiting it out there.
“The problem we’ve had is that the storm tracker has been showing throughout that the storm could hit anywhere in Florida and nowhere will be safe as it’s such a big storm.
“Right now the storm looks to be passing on the east coast but is so big it’ll be felt as at least a tropical storm over on the west coast of the state too.
“Last time with [Hurricane] Matthew it was predicted to be out in the Atlantic and small enough that most of us could evacuate over to Tampa.
“This one is so big nowhere in the state is reliably safe yet.”
Andy said he will be using a reliable phone service and power to co-ordinate any clean-up for the museum after the storm has passed.
Andy and his staff closed the museum to the public today in order to prepare and give staff time to prepare their homes or leave town.
Some staff, however, may use the museum’s new art building as a shelter due to the high standard of hurricane protection it has – including an emergency generator which will keep things such as the air conditioning working.
Andy said: “Many of my staff stayed there during Hurricane Matthew last year and the building didn’t get as much as a scratch on it.”
Andy did move to reassure people back home that those living inland are less concerned about the storm as they know flooding is not as much of a risk.
He said: “One thing I’d love to be able to get across in this is that the scenes people back home are seeing of evacuations and long traffic lines are people evacuating the barrier islands that line the east coast of Florida.
“Inland people are less concerned as they know flooding isn’t as much of a risk here, but on those islands you have lots of high-rise apartment blocks and hotels that will take the brunt of the ocean surge and any flooding by the intracoastal rivers as they’re built on the lowest land around here.
“Inland will see damage but nothing compared to the islands, which is what I understand people back home are seeing. The islands are a long way away from Walt Disney World!”