hurricane patty

UPDATE: ORLANDO, Fla. (9/11/17) — Reports from the Orlando, Florida area have been mostly good as Hurricane Irma passed through late last night and early morning.

Patricia Hawkins and friend Terri Peters weathered the brunt of the storm in the safety of an Orlando resort after having left Pompano Beach, when Irma was bearing down on the Caribbean.

“Terri and I are fine although it was a long night,” said Hawkins Monday morning. “We’re very thankful for all the prayers and well wishes from friends and family members. They lifted our spirits and gave us comfort.”

Hawkins said the bulk of the storm kicked in shortly after midnight in the Orlando area. Although rain began later Saturday afternoon, there was little change in wind speeds. However, that all changed around noon Sunday.

“Gusts continued to increase as Irma made her way up the peninsula,” said Hawkins. “We never lost power. Terri and I were able to stay on top of our circumstances and plan accordingly. Tornado watches and warnings were frequent and darkness came early due to cloud cover and rain.”

Around 1 a.m., Irma began to assault Orlando in her full force, said Hawkins. Violent winds reaching as much as 100 MPH were recorded.

This morning, Interstate 4 was active with utility and service trucks heading west toward Tampa. A local curfew remained in effect in Orlando, which is expected to be lifted by evening or early tomorrow.

“I-4 westbound at Florida 434 suffered damage as a small section of roadway collapsed,” said Hawkins. “Reports of evacuations, damaged homes, transformer explosions, flooding and blocked roadways from downed trees are being reported on local television.”

Hawkins said she and her friend viewed the entire scenario as a learning experience and was thankful that they remained in safety.

terri“Although Terri and I never envisioned a week such as this when we planned our trip,” said Hawkins. “We can now say we survived a historic hurricane. Yet, when traveling, you can never have too much preparedness in the event a natural disaster should strike.”

Hawkins encouraged travelers to pack a flashlight, pen and paper, small first-aid kit, can opener, ziplock bags, batteries, rain jacket and cord in a check-in bag.

According to some reports, as many as 38 died in the Caribbean as a result of Hurrican Irma.

While Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm, at least four have died in Florida and approximately 6.5 million people are without power.

The storm is expected to cross into Georgia this afternoon before heading into eastern Alabama and could sweep into western Tennessee by early Wednesday.

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director
Region 3 Vice President

UPDATE: ORLANDO, Fla. (9/9/17) — As the Osceola, Florida Emergency Management Services sends out flood warning alerts to Hopkins County resident Patricia Hawkins’ phone Saturday morning, she watches a long line of Asplundh tree trimming trucks headed along Interstate 4.

From her fifth-floor balcony, Hawkins and traveling companion Terri Peters, watch as others prepare and practice their own escape routes. The pair left their Pompano Beach lodging for a resort in Orlando north of the areas predicted to take the full force of Hurricane Irma. Still, they are prepared to evacuate if necessary but hopeful the move has put them into a much safer zone.

Hawkins reported to SurfKY News Friday about what was going on in Florida from her viewpoint.

Today, she offered an update and first-hand report from a state with approximately one quarter of its population having been evacuated already.

“Gov. Rick Scott continues to plead with the public, telling everyone to take this potentially catastrophic storm seriously,” said Hawkins. “The governor and his preparedness team are doing an outstanding job. Each press conference is concise and informative. This morning, he’s emphatically telling those, who are fleeing, to be off all roads by noon and within safe shelter. Gov. Scott began strongly reminding listeners two days ago that no law enforcement will be able to save anyone once the storm begins.”

Hawkins said the governor continues to ask for volunteers for shelters and cleanup efforts and especially for trained medical workers.

“The governor continues to ask for nurses to respond to assist in Florida medical facilities as it’s anticipated the need for their services will be great,” she said.

Hawkins said while Disney World parks are open this morning, they are scheduled to close early this evening and remain closed until Tuesday. Retail outlets are also closing early and are to remain closed through the storm event.

“We’ve noticed some are placing plywood over windows and doors,” she said. “Airports are sending out last flights by 5 p.m. today and closing by 6 p.m. Certain shelters are pet friendly, an important factor for pet owners.”

The storm surge in coastal areas is expected to be 6 – 12 feet, which is well above rooflines. One local middle school in Orlando, which has been prepped and ready, can take in as many as 1,600 evacuees, said Hawkins.

This morning, northbound traffic continues to be bumper-to-bumper, she said.

“Many restaurants are selling only grab-and-go food,” said Hawkins. “Some evacuees are having picnic style meals as they travel out of the hurricane zone.”

Hawkins said she anticipates an anxious Saturday.

“Mental and physical fatigue are beginning to seep upon us as we attempt to stay on top of this historic weather event.” she said.

For anyone still in the storm area needing assistance, go to or call the Florida Emergency Information Line at 800-342-3557. Florida cell phone users may also text FLPREPARES to 888777 to receive updates.

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director
Region 3 Vice President


ORLANDO, Fla. (9/8/17) — Hopkins County resident Patricia Hawkins reported to SurfKY News from her lodging in Orlando, Florida today to give a first-hand account of what’s going on there in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Irma.

Hawkins and friend flew into Orlando Sunday and drove to Pompano Beach, where they planned to stay a week before moving over to Cocoa Beach. However, forecasts seemed certain that Irma would strike Florida instead of moving back out to sea.

“When the forecast became less and less hopeful Irma would take a different turn and spare the southern portion of the state, we decided to drive back to the Kissimmee/Orlando area on Tuesday,” said Hawkins. “We're currently in preparedness mode here. Have gotten non-perishable food items, cases of water and other liquids, filling baggies with water and freezing them between texting and phone calls,  placing water in containers.”

Hawkins said the group has placed emergency items such as flashlights, candles, matches, knives, toilet tissue, facial tissue and garbage bags in resort wastebaskets which can be grabbed quickly if they should need to take shelter in the hallways.

IMG 20170908 094030“(We) also have grab and go bags in event we must go to a shelter, have Osceola County Emergency Management logged into my phone and registered for their alerts,” she said. “ The Florida governor has been keeping the public informed and up to date. In addition, the local media outlets are giving constant updates. Very impressive.”

Hawkins said area schools are closed and are to be used as shelters and there’s a nightly curfew of 5 p.m. beginning Saturday. 

“We have learned our resort will shelter employees and will also place maintenance employees within each unit to assist during the event,” she said. “Since we're located near Hwy 4, I'm also told this area should be one of the first to receive utility service afterward if needed. My 13 years of county emergency management work and volunteering are coming in very handy.  I'm taking this storm very seriously.  My friend Terri Peters and I are making every effort to stay safe and prepared. While we have tornado activity and straight line wind events in Kentucky, this will be much different due to the signicant size, wind velocity and timeline. On an up note, we're perfectly located to see the beautiful fireworks each evening at Disney World parks. Families are enjoying the parks today.”

Hawkins said she and Peters were beginning to stock their shared apartments' corridor with preparedness items that can be moved into the hallway in the event windows within the units break.

IMG 20170908 111606

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director
Region 3 Vice President

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