As Hurricane Ian takes aim at the western coast of Florida, several Bahamians living and studying in the Tampa Bay area are bracing for impact.
Laurie Dames and her husband, residents in the Tampa Bay area, are also providing shelter for her four nieces who are in college and high school.
Dames said her home is not in the evacuation zone and that she lives more than 21 miles from the coast.
“Yesterday I picked up my grand nieces, two at university and one at IMG Academy in Bradenton,” she said, noting that she is also sheltering a niece from the University of South Florida.
“The university … nieces are in Zone A, which is at highest risk of flooding. They are in the downtown area. Both of those areas are pretty much close to the coast. So I collected them.
“I have another niece who was headed home to Nassau first flight this morning and American canceled the flight. I’m on my way to get her.”
She said she was also making last minute preparations.
“I’m going to top up my supplies,” Dames said.
“I’ve been preparing from Sunday. [We have] water, flashlights, first aid kits, that kind of thing. By 1, 2 p.m., we should all be at home and ready to wait it out.”
Dames said her biggest worry is flooding and tornado activity.
“I am keeping everybody safe,” she said.
“I now have three sets of parents just calling and trying to ensure that we’re good.
“So my concern is just making sure that everybody is safe and we are prepared. That’s what is going through my mind.”
Joseph Edgecombe, 20, who is from New Providence and is a student at the University of South Florida, said he was going to ride out the storm in Tampa.
Edgecombe said he lives in an apartment complex opposite the school. At last report, that area was not under an evacuation order.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” he said.
“I’ll be alright. I actually live in an apartment right next to campus.
“It’s a pretty good apartment so I’m not too worried. I’ve been stocking up on supplies. I just went to the grocery store today and got some toilet paper and other food items. I got some water. I’m feeling kind of ready for it.
“Where my university is located, it’s not near the places that are going to get heavy storm surges. We might just get a lot of rain and wind.
“I think I will be alright.”
The civil engineer major said his parents are in constant communication with him and later noted that he was considering staying in a shelter.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said yesterday that Hurricane Ian, which will begin to impact Florida today, will bring “a devastating amount of water” to the Tampa Bay area.
“It can get better if the storm comes ashore a little south of us, and I don’t know that it can get much worse, but I’m sure there’s a scenario that says that it could,” the mayor said.
“Right now, a storm that slows down for 24 to 48 hours and just continuously dumps rain into the Tampa Bay area is devastating.”
Twins Hayley and Kaitlyn Burrows, 19, also students at the University of South Florida, said they intended to ride out the storm in Tampa but made a last minute decision to come home on Monday.
“As the storm got closer and we saw more of the path and how much it would be sitting on Tampa, our parents gave us the choice to come home,” Kaitlyn Burrows said.
She added, “We left really early Monday morning, around 7:30, to go four hours to Fort Lauderdale to catch the 4 p.m. flight to come home yesterday evening.”
She said when she and her sister finally arrived on New Providence, they were tired but happy.
“We’re scared, obviously, to see what could potentially happen, but I think knowing the potential dangers of the storm over Tampa, we feel comfortable being home rather than staying there,” she said.
“Even if it wasn’t bad, if you have electricity outages and not knowing how long we’d lose power and things like that, it’d be better for us to be home with our family.”
Hayley Burrows said she was also worried about potentially losing contact with her family.
“Everyone is saying this [could be] the worst hurricane [to hit] Tampa, so I said I don’t want to be there for that,” she said.
“I’ve been through enough hurricanes. I’d rather not go through that alone.”
Meantime, Luke Knowles, 20, another student at the University of South Florida, was in bumper to bumper traffic headed from Tampa to Daytona, when The Nassau Guardian spoke with him.
“My family was calling me all morning asking me if I’m going to leave, where I’m going to go, all the stuff,” the Long Island native said.
“We were all thinking about it yesterday, but I made the decision at 11 a.m. just to pick up and go. One of my friends was leaving and offered me a place to stay.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday advised all parents of Bahamian students studying on the western coast of Florida, particularly in Tampa, to “immediately evacuate” them.
“Hurricane Ian’s flooding potential appears to be extreme, necessitating everyone’s evacuation,” the ministry said.
The Department of Meteorology last night issued a tropical storm warning for Grand Bahama and Bimini.
As a result, the Ministry of Education said that schools on Grand Bahama, Grand Cay and Bimini will be closed today.