NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some of the last Florida evacuees arrived at LaGuardia Airport Friday, ahead of Hurricane Irma.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, getting out by air was growing more and more difficult. With every hour that passed, flights got canceled and Florida airports prepared for shutdown.
Those who did make it out were grateful.
“I’m glad I made it, but I feel bad for the people that are there,” said Laura Ezry.
It took two flights over two days for Ezry, an attorney, to get to LaGuardia Airport and flee her home in South Florida.
There was an overnight in Atlanta, and $600 for a one way trip on Delta.
Now she’s in New York, unplanned, with no big plans.
“Staying at a hotel, visiting relatives, waiting it out,” Ezry said.
Meanwhile, Barbara Levy locked up her apartment in Naples, Florida and brought only a backpack with a single change of clothes. She is staying with her sister, Robin Findling, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, and is unsure when she’ll go home…
“I’m exhausted,” Levy said. “I really want to get some sleep.”
“I’m grateful that she’s here, she’s safe, and no one has to worry about her,” Findling said.
The travelers expressed mixed emotions — relief to be out of the storm’s path, but also concern and anxiety — especially from those who have left close family members behind.
“My parents are still there because we have dogs and a cat, and they’re going to hunker down and try and do what they can,” said Madison Fischer of Vero Beach.
“It’s a vacation for me, coming up here for a couple of days,” said Tom Wicelinski of Melbourne.
Tom Wicelinski also just happened to have already booked to a ticket to LaGuardia weeks ago to attend a family party.
“Four days of putting up shutters, trimming trees, putting things away, roping things down,” he said.
But his wife stayed behind.
“We had nobody to watch the fur babies, so she elected not only to go to work today but stay home and watch the kiddies,” he said. “I’m hoping she still there when I get back.”
As airports around Florida continue to shut down ahead of Irma’s arrival, many here in New York say they feel lucky to have made it out.
“I’m happy to be up here, but I’m worried,” said Fischer.
Many people who left Florida also drove up to the Tri-State area to seek refuge with relatives. CBS2’s Meg Baker caught up with some of them at a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike.
Rest stops are always a revolving door of travelers, and many of them were from Florida Friday. The Joyce Kilmer Service Area was a much-needed pit stop for people escaping Irma.
Shmuel has seven children.
“We knew we were going to evacuate, just with little kids in house and no electricity and no running water; no AC. We figured we were going to probably head somewhere,” he said.
That somewhere is to family in Brooklyn. They left Daytona, and 14 hours later they made it to New Jersey.
It took Jenna Soriano of Miami even longer.
“Twenty-something hours, because you have to stop… because of the children,” she said.
Her son said he was distracted playing video games on his iPad. Thank goodness, said his mother, as they headed to New York City.
“We’re not looking forward to ride back at all — at all,” Soriano said. “You know, like, the traffic has been very bad.”
Ed Whitney is from Boston, and was wearing a Boston Red Sox T-shirt. He sat in the same maze of cars after his cruise from Orlando was canceled.
“We came up 95 and from Florida up. From there up, it was bumper to bumper — crazy people going really fast in and out of lanes,” he said.
Joe Perrella is headed to his sister-in-law’s on Staten Island.
“We’re at the Bonavita complex in Palm Beach and my house is like a monument, OK? Solid stone — but we can’t take any chances,” he said.
Frantic Laurie Karas of Boston knew her mother needed help getting off Marco Island.
“We flew down Wednesday morning, and we’ve been driving since to get her out of Florida,” she said.
“I knew I had to get out, yes,” added her mother, Carol Skurski. “I hope I can go back.”
The latest models from the National Hurricane Center had Irma tracking farther west than originally forecast, closer toward the West Coast of Florida.
But while Irma weakened slightly Friday, it remained dangerous and deadly.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged people in coastal and low-lying areas to heed evacuation orders. Across the state, some 850,000 people were ordered to leave their homes, clogging interstates as far north as Atlanta.
“If you’ve been ordered to evacuate and are still home, please go,” Scott said. “Today is the day to do the right thing for your family and get inland to safety.”
Scott said he knows it’s hard to evacuate your home, but said every Floridian should “take this seriously and be aggressive to protect their family.”
“Possessions can be replaced,” he said. “Your family cannot be replaced.”
Scott said people fleeing could use the shoulder lane on highways, but he hasn’t reversed the southbound lanes. Several small communities around Lake Okeechobee in the south-central part of Florida were added to the evacuation list because the lake may overflow, the governor said.
“You don’t have to go a long way. You can go to a shelter in your county,” Scott said. “This storm is powerful and deadly. We are running out of time.”
Forecasters predicted a storm surge of 6 to 12 feet above ground level along Florida’s southwest coast and in the Keys. As much as a foot of rain could fall, with isolated spots receiving 20 inches.