Some Pittsburgh Transplants Hunkering Down For Irma, Others Fleeing From Monster Storm

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — They moved south to take advantage of the Florida sunshine and now thousands of former western Pennsylvanians find themselves in the path of Hurricane Irma.

“Being down here and feeling the stress of this, you really do get the feeling of nervousness and the fear,” says new transplant Linda Pool. “I feel for anybody in its path.”

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports —

Linda and Hank Pool, and their dog Clover, moved to Bonita Springs, Florida, from Fox Chapel in July.

“We thought we would have our beginner hurricane so we could warm up to the serious one,” Pool says. “That’s not going to be the case, I don’t think.”

In fact, the storm has taken a slight eastward turn, but Pool is not about to relax.

“There is no certainty here. Everybody knows this can change on a dime,” she says.

Pool says bottled water and gasoline are getting tough to get and the highways are jammed with folks heading north.

The Pool family has stocked up on all the necessities and is planning to ride it out at home.

“We have a dog and it’s hard to leave with a dog,” she says. “It’s hard to find a hotel. We did look, but you can’t find a hotel until up into the Carolinas.”

Joe Kane and his wife, Francis, moved to the Bradenton area after he retired from running the Westin Convention Center Hotel in 2007.

This is their first major hurricane and they’ve been busy preparing their home in Bradenton and their son’s home in Kissimmee.

They are following the lead of many of their neighbors and staying put.

Kane says, “I think we’ll be safe, but it’s a situation with 185 mile per hour winds, who knows? The only thing I hope for is, by the time it hits us, the winds will dissipate somewhat and fall down to 120 miles per hour.”

The Kanes have stocked up on everything they’ll need for a while and packed ice into their freezer to protect its contents if the power goes out.

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports —

But Kane says all the preparation does not allay the concern.

“I think it’s more nervousness than anything, nervous because of the unknown,” he said. “If it comes up the Gulf Coast, that’s the worst for me personally. If it veers off the east, that’s the best for everybody and that’s what we’re praying for.”

Pool says the decision to stay is more common than not.

“We’re not outliers here. There are plenty of people who are staying,” she said.

Pool and Kane are confident they will be okay, but nonetheless, Kane says, “I’m asking all my friends and family to say a prayer for us.”

While some are staying put, others are heeding the call to leave. Some are even finding refuge in Pittsburgh while the storm churns towards their homes.

Alex Butor arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport Wednesday evening. She left her house in Fort Myers with her 2-month-old daughter to come and stay with family in the South Hills at the advice of friends.

“They were saying, ‘You’d better leave now, because if you don’t leave now, you’re going to get stuck,’ because traffic was even terrible today,” Butor said. “My husband is driving home.”

KDKA’s David Highfield Reports —

Kathy Liu’s story is different. She’s not from Pittsburgh originally, but lives in Orlando, and just didn’t want to take the risk of staying with her young son, Max.

“I just didn’t want to stay there all by myself with him. It’s just too dangerous,” she said when she arrived at Pittsburgh International on Wednesday.

Liu is worried what she might return home to once monster storm passes through. Still, she’s thankful to have a friend in Pittsburgh to stay with.

“I have a great responsibility to my son, so I don’t think I’d even be able to save myself. This is a very bad storm,” she said.

Meanwhile, Diane and Tom Agresti, from Irwin, were vacationing in Key West, celebrating her birthday when the order came to get out.

“We went to our reservation, had a great time, and came back and there was a note on the door — you had to be out by noon the next day,” said Diane.

Problem was, getting a flight out. Their original flight was cancelled.

“There was a lot of people who didn’t know what they were doing. What they should do. You just had to be brave enough to go up to someone, a counter person,” Diane said.

“She was the brave one. Without her, I don’t know if I had made it,” added Tom.

And there doesn’t seem to be any relief for the hurricane-wary public. Tropical Storm Jose was upgraded to a Hurricane on Wednesday afternoon, and shortly after that, Hurricane Katia formed in the Gulf of Mexico.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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