By John Shumway

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Throughout western Pennsylvania, people are keeping a wary eye on the path of Hurricane Irma.

The concern is for friends, relatives, and former neighbors in the path of the Category 5 hurricane.

Robert “Bobby” Palmiere is a Bloomfield native who now lives in Delray Beach, Fla. The devastation of Irma in the Caribbean has Palmiere’s full attention.

“[Category] 4 or 5, that’s death and destruction. That’s not something fun,” Palmiere said. “I’m from Bloomfield. I just came back from the Italian festival. I still have that mentality everything is going to be fine. But this is the first time I actually have a fear of one of these things. I’ve been through about ten of them so far, but nothing like this.”

Palmiere has worked hard in the contracting business and has a beautiful home right on the water. The mandatory order to evacuate came Thursday morning.

“They’re talking 10, 15 foot waves. Well, you know what? My house is underwater then,” Palmiere said. “I’m a good swimmer. I used to swim in the Allegheny, [but] I’m not really sure if I can handle 15 feet of salt water over my head.”

Palmiere says the hurricane panels will go up to protect his home’s windows from whatever the water will send to attack his home.

“Broken wood and planks and poles and posts and most importantly boats could come through your house,” he says.

On Saturday, Bobby, his wife, son, daughter, and the family’s three dogs will head for his company’s 25,000 square foot concrete block building to ride out the storm. In the meantime, he and his employees will be working to secure a lot of roofs.

“I have 15 communities that I have to go and make sure they are strapped in, ready for this. I have contracts with them,” he said. “I can honestly say, I’ve slept like four hours since Tuesday [because of] just worrying, constant worrying. I have the Weather Channel on every night, seeing and hoping [Hurricane Irma] curves to keep it off the coast,” says Palmiere. “I keep lighting candles and saying my Ava Marias, but they aren’t working right now.”

In fact, the latest projection does not move the storm to the east. Instead, it’s to the west and back to a ride up the heart of the state of Florida.

Fox Chapel Native “Hunkering Down” In Path Of Hurricane Irma —


That puts Kara Speer and her family a little closer to the storm’s crosshairs. Speer is originally from Fox Chapel and was also hoping for a more eastward track of the storm. Nevertheless, few around the Orlando area are planning on leaving.

“I think everybody is planning to kind of hunker down, but just be as prepared as possible,” Speer said.

Speer says she, her husband, son and their very skittish dog will take refuge in the center of their home away from their windows.

She says they want to stay put to address immediately any damage to their home.

“Definitely the high winds will be the scariest. We have a lot of big trees around our house, a lot of big trees in our neighborhood,” she said. “So I think that’s where we’ll just be worried about the roof and worried about the trees coming down.”

Some of the most precarious limbs of those trees were trimmed prior to Hurricane Matthew last year. The family also bought a generator before Matthew, and with the provisions they’ve stockpiled this week Speer says, “We feel baring the worst case scenario we should be pretty prepared.”

Both Speer and Palmiere say even if they wanted to leave now the jammed highways, and lack of gasoline make it safer to stay put.

If there is any good news in Irma’s destructive path, it’s that she will arrive on Sunday and be in Georgia by Monday morning. It will not linger with flooding rains as Harvey did in Texas.