Ottawa

'A collective freakout': Ottawa woman, husband to ride out Hurricane Irma

An Ottawa woman and her American husband have found themselves stuck in the path of Hurricane Irma as it bears down on the west coast of Florida.

Safer to 'just stay here and hunker down,' said Ottawa native Lynne Bermel Scripter

Lynne Bermel Scripter and Dan Scripter stand outside their home in Venice, Fla., on Sept. 9, 2017. They expect Hurricane Irma will batter their part of the state on Sept. 10. (Submitted)

Hurricane Irma is on a collision course with Lynne Bermel Scripter's house, and she's going to be there when it hits.

For the past few days, Bermel Scripter and her husband, Dan Scripter, have been weatherproofing their home inside their Venice, Fla., gated community the best they can.

The couple found themselves caught in the path of the hurricane after it unexpectedly veered west, and now — with local highways jammed and gas stations out of fuel  — they're preparing to ride Irma out.

"It looks like we're going to bear the brunt of it, a large part of it, as it turns towards us. There's sort of a collective freakout here," said Bermel Scripter, who is originally from Ottawa.

"We probably could leave, but it's been bumper-to-bumper traffic. It takes hours to get 10 kilometres. And they were having real problems with gas — there was no gas available. So, really, the safest thing for us right now is to just stay here and hunker down."

'First time I've been scared'

Forecasters are expecting the storm to be near the Florida Keys on Sunday morning and approach the state's southwest coast by the afternoon.

Irma was once tracking up the centre of the state, but it has now shifted to the west, threatening cities along the coast with dangerous storm surges. 

I should've known better than this. But you get complacent when things don't happen.- Dan Scripter

As of Sunday morning, Irma had been upgraded once again to a Category 4 storm and began pounding the coast with downpours and winds around 215 km/h.

As of 8 a.m. ET Sunday, the hurricane was centered about 30 kilometres east-southeast of Key West, Florida, and was moving north-northwest at 13 km/h. The Key West International Airport measured sustained winds of 80 km/h with a gust of up to 113 km/h, according to the hurricane center.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said the state's entire west coast should brace for water levels to suddenly rise by 1.8 to 3.6 metres (6 to 12 feet) and that no one in the evacuation zones should hesitate to leave.

"I will admit, [it's the] first time I've been scared," said Dan Scripter, Bermel Scripter's husband.

(CBC)
 

The couple moved to Florida five years ago, and Scripter had also lived in the state in the 1980s. He said that while they'd experienced hurricane warnings before, the storms would usually stay on the east coast or bear west into the Gulf of Mexico.

But Hurricane Irma, Scripter said, wasn't playing by those rules.

"It just kept drifting a bit, and drifting a bit, and the intensity stayed the same. And now it's just too late [to leave]," he said.

"I hate to say it — [it's] my fault. I should've known better than this. But you get complacent when things don't happen."

Last-minute preparations

Over the past few days, the couple installed hurricane-proof shutters on the windows and placed sandbags around the home, which isn't in an evacuation zone.

They've also backed their cars right up against the garage door so it doesn't blow out during the storm's peak.

Their house is also built according to current hurricane safety codes, Bermel Scripter said. Family and friends back in Ottawa are praying for their safety, she added.

All those factors, plus the constant stream of information from local officials, have made it easier to face down the storm's impending arrival, Bermel Scripter said.

"They've prepared us very well. They've told us there's a chance we won't have power for at least three days, maybe up to a week," she said.

"So we've all stocked up on supplies, freezing water, tons of bottled water. A lot of people have purchased generators."

The winds and sea are whipped up off of the Rickenbacker Causeway as two people cross the street in Miami as Hurricane Irma approaches on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Associated Press)

Despite all those preparations, Scripter said they likely won't come out of Irma unscathed. 

"I don't think we'll avoid damage. We are going to have damage," he said. "We'll be fine inside the house. The structure's not going to fall. But we will have property damage, I would anticipate that." 

As of Saturday afternoon, Irma had already killed at least 21 people in the Caribbean and left thousands homeless.