(WKBN) – People in the Valley are used to those fall temperatures, but Valley natives in Florida are preparing for something completely different.
WKBN put out a call on social media and within minutes, the newsroom was flooded with calls and emails from those Valley natives on the coast.
Florida officials say Hurricane Ian — and the high water surges — could be historic. The storm is expected to hit the southwest coast of Florida, near Tampa, at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Bob Hanna just moved to the St. Petersburg area in June. As the hurricane approaches, they’re unable to leave, and his newborn is son stuck in the NICU.
“I’m super nervous but holding it together the best I can for everybody,” he said.
Bob and his wife Latricia made the decision to move to Florida when she was pregnant with their fourth child, Vaughn, after finding out that he had a hole in his diaphragm. He said they found specialized care there, and his son’s case was severe.
Latricia had a C-section on Sept. 15. Vaughn is still in the NICU, on a ventilator, at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, so they decided that Latricia will stay at the hospital, which was locked down for the storm at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
“She’s going to ride out the hurricane with Vaughn… and I’m going to be up here,” he said.
Bob and their three other kids are prepared to stay at their home 55 miles inland.
They are not the only ones locking down.
Tom Phibbs moved to Sarasota three years ago with his wife and kids. They’re in Zone C of the storm, but their biggest worry is losing power.
“Spoke with a fireman at the gas station and he said this is the first time in over 100 years that Sarasota has taken a direct hit,” he said.
Phibbs said gas stations are empty, store shelves are ransacked, all large billboards have been taken down and major retailers have boarded up their windows.
“Flashlights, forget it,” he said. “The whole aisle’s gone. Water, as soon as they put cases of water out, people were taking them.”
Hayley Woak is from Niles but moved to Tampa in 2013 and works at several hospitals in Clearwater as a traveling nurse. She said hospitals are getting a huge influx of patients from evacuated hospitals and retirement homes.
“I’m on the A-team, which means tomorrow, when I report to work, I probably won’t make it back home until Friday,” she said.
Danielle Riccitelli is from McDonald and has lived around Florida for over five years. She’s lived through hurricanes but never anything like this.
She was preparing her house in St. Petersburg for the storm and was planning to stay at her other house further inland, but once she got evacuation alerts warning her of “life-threatening flooding,” she managed to find a hotel room in Orlando to stick out the storm with her family and three dogs.
“They’re just houses. We’re people, and what’s most important — us and our dogs — we’re all here, and we’re all going to be safe,” she said.