'It's a very eerie feeling': Newfoundlanders weather storm as Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida
Residents preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, as storm hits
As Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida, many Newfoundlanders living in the state are waiting with bated breath to see how the storm plays out.
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Reached by phone at 3:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon, Salvation Army Capt. Julia Butler-Tarnue said she and her husband were preparing to spend the evening waiting out the storm at their home in their community of Sanford, Fla., near Orlando.
She said they braved the storm's early moments on Sunday to drive to a nearby community to provide 800 meals for residents displaced by the storm.
"It's a very eerie feeling. The places that we were driving, some were over causeways and bridges," said Butler-Tarnue.
"The water is very rough right now and you can see the water rising in some areas."
She said the power was still on in her neighbourhood, but that it's expected to be touch and go as the storm picks up intensity.
"For right now, we did deliver as many meals as we could, and so now we ensure our own safety until things have passed," she said.
Nurse helping recovery efforts
Gina Quinn-Noggle, a nurse originally from Conception Bay South, has lived in the southern United States for over 20 years.
On Sunday morning, as it was starting to get light out in Valrico, just west of Tampa, she found herself directly in the eye of the storm.
"Right now I'm OK. I'm just bracing myself for probably the worst night of my life," said Quinn-Noggle.
As a nurse at Tampa General Hospital, Quinn-Noggle said she didn't have the option to evacuate.
She has to be ready to head into work as soon as the initial storm breaks.
"Everybody says, 'Why don't you just leave?' It's not that easy," said Quinn-Noggle.
"Up until Friday, I had to work. I'm a nurse and I'm Team B which means once this mess passes, I have to go to work."
She said Valrico is relatively inland, and not expected to be at risk of storm surges, so there's no evacuation order in place for the area.
But the wind remains a huge concern.
"I'm not gonna lie, I'm terrified," she said.
"This is the first time I've been directly in the eye of the hurricane and as a homeowner."
Mary Brown's owner watching from N.L.
Elsewhere in the state, the owners of Florida's only Mary Brown's franchise are keeping close tabs on the storm and what it means for their employees.
Paul Shelley and Kathy Goudie are former Newfoundland MHA's who now co-own a Mary Brown's Diner in Englewood, close to nearby Fort Myers.
Shelley said most of his employees have evacuated the area, while a manager is sticking around nearby to see what sort of damage accumulates.
He plans to head back to Florida as soon as it's safe.
"As soon as we're able to go there, I'll be going," he said.
With files from Weekend AM and Andrew Sampson