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Irma 2017: Some Fled by Charter Plane. Others Took the Bus.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Hotel dishwasher Wilman Hernandez waited with his wife and young son at a Miami Beach bus stop late last week, desperately looking for a way to get to a shelter where they could ride out Hurricane Irma.

Hernandez fears the storm will destroy their first-floor apartment. With no car to join the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading north and no supplies other than water, their options, like those of many low-income Florida residents, were limited. 

Wilman Hernandez and his wife Brenda Ramirez, check their phones for the location of shelters and their capacity while waiting for a bus on Sept. 9 in Miami Beach, Florida. AP Photo by Marta Lavandier

“I have been calling 311 to get information about shelters that are available and no one answers the phone,” Hernandez said. “I need to take my family off the beach and to safety.”

The scramble to flee from the path of Irma has been a much different experience for those in different income brackets.

In the upscale coastal community of Rio Vista, where multimillion-dollar homes sit on elegant tree lined streets, many residents had secured their boats, spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on supplies or joined the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading north.

Teddy Morse, a Florida native and owner of a car dealership, spent about $7,500 on two generators, 50 gallons of water, 67 gallons of gas, non-perishable foods and other items. He chartered a plane and sent his wife and two young children to Alabama to stay with family, while he stayed behind to check on his businesses and employees.

Fla. Groups Offer Support for Low-Income Residents

Grassroots leaders opened an informal emergency operations center in the Miami area last week to assist working families facing Hurricane Irma, according to WLRN.com.

Florida New Majority, the CLEO Institute and the Miami Climate Alliance are answering questions from residents in Miami-area neighborhoods, especially in Liberty City and Little Haiti.

Community leaders say their work at the Miami Climate Alliance Emergency Operations Center is another way to support residents, in addition to the official Miami-Dade 311 help center.

To contact the Miami Climate Alliance Emergency Operations Center: Call 954-857-5441, email nancy@newfloridamajority.org or send a text for emergency tips to “STORM17” to 90975.

— Equal Voice News

“You try to do whatever you can to protect your family … I wish everybody had the ability to take care of their families the way they want to,” said Morse, who was allowing his employees to fill their tanks at the dealership, leave their owns cars in the garage and store personal documents at the office.

About a mile away in Fort Lauderdale, 18-year-old Jayvontay John was asking strangers for information about which shelters might be open. He doesn’t own a cellphone or computer and was having trouble getting basic information.

“It does worry me … that I’m not going to able to get to the shelter,” he said. “I heard the hurricane is really, really bad.”

In Miami, advocates for the homeless patrolled the streets on Sept. 9, picking up about 400 people and driving them to shelters voluntarily or under the threat of involuntary hospitalization.

“We were driving in the vans and we had people jumping out into the streets to stop us so we would pick them up … Those folks were coming out of the woodwork, they knew we were out there,” said Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.

Marvin Carter wasn’t interested in getting to a shelter. The 62-year-old walked through traffic begging for bus fare, which he hoped would take him a few miles west to an Interstate 95 underpass.

“I’ve got my sleeping bag … that’s my place,” said Carter, adding that he survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992 underneath the freeway.

Deborah Rosenberg, an interior designer, said she bought extra supplies to help those who work in her posh Miami home, offering them food, water and help finding shelter.

But she and her daughters won’t be there. They booked a private jet Thursday so they could ride out the storm in their New York apartment. Her husband, who works in the finance industry, joined them Friday. Rosenberg acknowledged felling uncomfortable thinking about her friends and employees.

“It’s a complete contrast,” she said.

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Marta Lavandier, an Associated Press writer, contributed to this story from Miami Beach. About the top photo: 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 Sept. 9. Photo by Mike Stocker of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press


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