ENGLEWOOD, Fla. — A local family was scheduled to head home from Southern Florida to South Glens Falls early Saturday morning. But because of Hurricane Irma’s threatening power, their flight was canceled several days ago.
And ever since, Dan Fitzgibbon and Rebecca Sharrow and their two young children have been trying to get home; price gouging has made it nearly impossible to leave.
“They (airlines) are charging $1,300 a piece. It would have been $5,200 without taxes to get home,” said Fitzgibbon, who works in the operating room at Glens Falls Hospital. “They want $300 a day to rent a car.”
And even if they rented a car, getting gas is rough.
“They are charging $9.99 for a gallon of gas,” Fitzgibbon said. “And people are running out of gas. We heard that it is taking 24 hours to get out of Florida and there isn’t enough gas.”
The South Glens Falls family has been visiting Sharrow’s father in Englewood, Sarasota County. Englewood is on the Gulf Coast, about an hour North of Fort Meyers.
And since Irma changed its route, they are now in the direct path of the storm.
Fitzgibbon said that Sharrow is very nervous and they both worry about their children, a 9-month-old and two-year-old.
“We’re going to be getting hit about 11 or 12 tonight,” he said. And they told us to hold on from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m., about 18 hours.”
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irma is moving toward the west-northwest at about nine mph; the eye of Irma was moving toward the north coast of Cuba early Saturday evening and is expected to reach the Florida Keys Sunday morning. Irma is expected to move along or near the southwest coast of Florida on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday evening, it was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, but she is forecast to strengthen once she moves away from Cuba and will remain a powerful hurricane as she approaches Florida.
Fitzgibbon said that the winds are already picking up.
“We went to see the beach, and on one side the sky is very blue, the other side is dark,” he said. “The winds are now about 10 to 15 mph.”
Originally, the family had planned a vacation on Cape Cod, but because of Hurricane Harvey decided to go to Florida instead. And the way it stands right now, they can’t get a flight home until next Wednesday.
“We had to call the hospital to say we won’t be coming in,” Fitzgibbon said. Sharrow, who was named nurse of the year, also works in the OR at Glens Falls Hospital.
In Englewood, the hospital already closed and relocated patients north, he said.
So like others remaining behind, they started getting ready a few days ago, making sure all windows were boarded up and that they had several days of food and supplies, although water is now $15 for a case.
“I’ve never been through anything like this. I went to the store this morning, and people were just grabbing things,” he said. “I was just watching it.”
They were able to buy the last sheets of roofing plywood and once they boarded their windows, they went to neighbors’ homes and boarded those.
“Some of the people who live here are snowbirds and are gone in the summer,” Fitzgibbon said. “We took everything off their lanais and put them in their homes and boarded their windows.”
Sharrow’s father’s home is stucco and that makes them a bit more comfortable. But they do not have a generator. That means preparing for no power.
“We cooked up everything in the freezer so it wouldn’t spoil,” he said. “We have about three days of food.”
With temperatures in the mid-90s, losing power also means it will get very uncomfortable when the air conditioning stops.
“Rebecca’s dad said that he was cranking it as low as he can so it will stay cool longer,” he said.
Fitzgibbon, who was recently named to The Post-Star’s 20 under 40, said that he will continue to share their experience for as long as he can.