Millions of Floridians return home after evacuating from Hurricane Irma

By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
September 12, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- As Hurricane Irma’s force dwindles, millions of Floridians are back on the road to return home after evacuating.

Tens of thousands are still in shelters around the state as of Tuesday morning.

As for the returning residents, they remain focused on the potential traffic congestion and the uncertainty of what awaits back at home.

Just four days ago, traffic headed west on I-10 was at a standstill. Now, a steady flow of evacuees are returning home.

Springhill resident Robert Harris said, “We had discussed whether or not we were going to leave next time we had a hurricane warning. We decided that we still are, simply because this was just lucky.”

We spoke with Alfred Rivera at a rest stop. He’s traveling back to Miami. When he left last week he didn’t know what he would find when he returned. Rivera explained, “God’s hand was over our home and in the neighborhood. It did flood in the outer areas, but not in the neighborhood itself where we were.” Rivera says he’s coming back to good news, and even worried if he was still going to have a roof or a house.

However, traffic and fuel supplies are still big concerns for travelers. Gary Gresko, who is returning to Vero Beach, says, “All these responder vehicles, the roads are filled with those guys and they have to get down here to help out, but they're taking up all the room.”

Governor Rick Scott waived taxes on fuel entering the state to help replenish supplies. Scott said, “We've got to keep fuel on that road and all the roads so that people can get home. People want to come home.”

The Florida Highway Patrol has dedicated 20 troopers to escort fuel from major ports in the state.

Many of the evacuees returning now know their homes made it through. But, many more are still in shelters and left with a great uncertainty of what they'll find when they are allowed to head back home.

As of Tuesday morning 86,000 Floridians were still in 370 shelters throughout the state.

Many shelters have already begun closing and more will follow, sending more and more evacuees back to their homes to begin rebuilding their lives.

To locate shelters in your area go to Floridadisaster.org/shelters.