Mitchell International Airport busy with impending Hurricane Irma

Posted at 6:12 PM, Sep 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-08 19:13:09-04

Florida residents with Wisconsin ties flooded Mitchell International Airport Friday, getting out of the Sunshine State before Hurricane Irma makes landfall. 

"It's scary," Dan Nedbrowski, a Milwaukee native living in Clearwater, Florida said. "There's no water. Gas stations with fuel are hard to come by." 

For Nedbrowski and others, getting out of Florida proved to be a struggle. Many of the roads are gridlocked with traffic and getting a plane ticket proved almost as difficult."

"I was on the computer for hours, hours and hours," Nedbrowski said. "I was just refreshing. Flights would be available one minute and then they're gone. They give you 24 hours to cancel so I did it about seven times to get earlier flights."

For others, it came down to the eleventh hour before they pulled the plug. 

"It came down to 4:00 a.m. this morning when we made the decision to go," Rob Odell of Naples, Florida said. "We had refundable tickets and decided whether we were going to go or not based on the forecast we saw."

Hurricane Irma is barreling towards America's southeast peninsula, and people are running out of time to get out. By all estimates, this storm is not fit for man nor beast. 

"With my dog, it's kind of hard with him," Ashley Grau, a University of Tampa student from Mukwonago said. "Because of his size, I had to squeeze him into that carrier."

Grau's five-month-old dachschund mix was happy to be in Wisconsin. The dog, named Jordy after the Packers wide-receiver, will be able to enjoy Green Bay's first home game of this season from the comforts of Wisconsin. However, it took Grau and her friends a long time to realize the impact this storm could have.

"A lot of us there are not from Florida," Grau said. "We were taking it as a joke a little bit. Oh, we'll be fine. But as the intensity grew, we're like, oh wow. We need to get out of here."

For Floridians, they are notorious for braving out hurricanes. For them, they feel they're as common as blizzards are for Wisconsinites. 

"I was in Nicaragua this summer," Brian Cumming of Orlando said. "They have eight active volcanoes. They're like, yeah it erupted last year. It's no big deal. We kind of feel the same way about hurricanes. We had one last year. In 2004, we had four in a row that went past Orlando. You survive and live for the next day."

However, Irma is the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record. So Cumming and his family know to take this seriously.

"Our state is being evacuated," Cumming said. "Miami is evacuating. [But] they know what to do with their homes. We get sandbags. The flooding and electricity are the two things we worry about. But we're going to hunker down in the house and watch the storm come in."

But Cumming's co-worker has a different plan.

"I'm going to head to New York," Danny Sela of Orlando said. "My family is flying up to get out of there. It is pretty scary. You get used to it, but you never know. We emptied the patio and put the furniture inside, boarded the windows, put some sandbags. It will be a lot of rain. We're worried about the rain and water getting into the house."

Flights from Florida airports are dwindling. Airports across the state are closing Friday night ahead of Hurricane Irma making landfall.