Quebecers in Florida brace for arrival of Hurricane Irma

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Hurricane Irma has already dealt a catastrophic blow to a string of Caribbean islands and is expected to hit the Florida Keys on Sunday morning.

An estimated 5.6 million people in South Florida have been under mandatory evacuation orders as of Thursday, with Florida Governor Rick Scott warning residents that if they stayed, they would have to ride out an “extremely dangerous storm at your own risk.”

By late Friday, Irma had regained Category 5 strength with winds of 260 km/h, before dropping to Category 4 again with winds of 249 km/h early Saturday.

Julie Lavoie, originally from Quebec but living in West Palm Beach for the last 10 years, isn’t planning on abandoning her home.

She’s outside the mandatory evacuation zone and says traffic is jammed enough on the roads as it is.

“They don’t want us to block the fast lanes, so we’re going to stay here,” she said.

As a real estate agent who manages multiple properties, Lavoie says she’s done her best barricading doors and windows to keep out potential flood waters.

Hurricane Irma Track as of Friday Sept. 8 2017

A projected path of hurricane Irma as of Sept. 8. (CBC)

Another former Quebec resident, Michel Séguin, did decide to leave his Hollywood, Fl. apartment, but said it took him seven hours to drive the 350 kilometres to Orlando.

Faced with a high volume of traffic, Séguin gased up at a small service station and stuck to side roads on his journey west.

“The road will be longer, it will take longer, but you’ll get to your destination,” he said.

Now safely in Orlando, he’s hoping to ride out the storm and hope for the best.

“Orlando is in Central Florida — it’s never been a prime location for hurricanes,” said Séguin.


Many highways heading out of the affected zones have been jammed with traffic since the mandatory evacuation orders were announced. (La Presse canadienne/Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

‘Nobody should go out’

Sandra Belzile, formerly of Rivière-du-Loup, now lives in Pompano Beach just north of Fort Lauderdale.

She told CBC that her home is right on the limit of the evacuation zone and so she decided to ride out the storm, stocking up enough food and water to last two weeks.

She said that while the storm could have a serious impact on southern Florida, she’s feeling confident in her second-floor apartment, at low risk of either flooding or losing her roof.

Belzile told CBC’s All in a Weekend that she and her husband spent three hours installing strips of plywood over one of the apartment’s window.

Barbuda destroyed

Barbuda is pictured pre-Irma on the left and post-Irma on the right. (Visit Antigua and Barbuda /ABS-TV Antigua via CBC News)

“It’s still life threatening so we have to stay home with the shutters,” she said. “Nobody should go out, not at all.”

So far, at least 22 people have been reported dead in the hardest-hit areas of the Caribbean. Thousands of people in St. Martin and Barbuda are homeless and without access to electricity or running water.

And now the island of Barbuda is bracing for Jose, a second hurricane that appears to be following in Irma’s path.

Many flights in and out of the affected area have been cancelled with passengers being advised to evacuate by road.

Air Canada announced all flights to and from Florida have been cancelled from Saturday September 9 until Monday September 11, 2017.

A number of other flights coming from affected areas have also been cancelled or delayed.

You can find the most up-to-date travel advisories here.

If you need emergency assistance and can’t reach an embassy, contact Global Affairs at 613-996-8885.

Stuck in the path of Hurricane Irma? Here are key facts and contacts you need.

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Quebecers in Florida brace for arrival of Hurricane Irma

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