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No escape from Irma: Mom, daughter leave but Irma follows

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BEFORE THE STORM — Lory Jimenez, left, and her daughter Marlee evacuated to Jacksonville, but Hurricane Irma followed.         

BEFORE THE STORM — Lory Jimenez, left, and her daughter Marlee evacuated to Jacksonville, but Hurricane Irma followed.             


One of the most powerful hurricanes in the history of the Atlantic Ocean is heading to the west. Thus, the logical thing to do for someone wanting to escape the storm is to head east.

So, as Irma began heading northwest through the peninsula of Florida, DeLand resident Lory Jimenez packed up her SUV with her 15-year-old daughter Marlee and their cat, Issac, and headed northeast to her eldest daughter’s home in Jacksonville. Lory’s son, Caleb, 17, rode out the storm with friends in the DeLand area.

Despite the logical reasons for heading northeast, logic didn’t apply to Irma. When the storm arrived in the peninsula, it was wider than the state. As its eye approached Tampa, despite everything television meteorologists had predicted, the hurricane curved to the east.

Hurricane Irma hit Jacksonville early Monday with winds near the 75-mile-per-hour mark that separates a tropical storm from a hurricane. The St. Johns River, which empties into the Atlantic at Jacksonville, overflowed its banks and caused massive flooding.

Jimenez, a bank executive, and her family, along with a friend from St. Augustine and her three children and two other cats, were spared from the flooding, but not from the terror of the winds and the fear of tornadoes that accompanied the storm or of fear that the rushing waters would reach them.

“It was very scary,” Jimenez wrote in a text message to The Beacon. She used text messaging because, after the storm and the 100-mile-plus trip to and from Jacksonville, stress had left her with a very sore throat that kept her from talking.

The children took the storm in stride, according to Jimenez.

“They were good,” she wrote. “We had to prepare the kids and try not to scare them.”

With weather reports predicting doom, that was a tough job.

“The most terrifying thing was that it would hit [during] the nighttime,” Jimenez wrote.

Before the storm, her eldest daughter, Lea Koechle, 27, her family, and two dogs headed northeast into Georgia to ride out the storm with Lea’s grandfather near Atlanta. Sure enough, after inundating Jacksonville, Irma headed into Georgia.

The Koechles went through the storm in fine shape. But, the trip back was a nightmare of dodging debris-strewn highways and snarled traffic, according to Jimenez.

By comparison, the trip on Interstate 95 back to Volusia County was relatively smooth, although Issac occasionally yowled in protest. 

“He didn’t like the car ride,” Jimenez wrote.

And, when the next storm comes, Jimenez wrote, she would do it all over again.

- Rick Tonyan,

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