NEW PORT RICHEY, FL – Growing up in the Spring Hill and New Port Richey areas, Kimberly Haack said she experienced the severe weather hurricanes can bring.
While she was concerned about Hurricane Florence, she said it was her husband who insisted she take their three children – Micheal, 10, Emily, 9, and Zekkora, 2 – and evacuate their home on the base at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, NC.
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“I had five hours to pretty much get everything packed and important documents, pictures, up high,” said Haack.
Haack said her husband had to stay behind because he’s an active duty Marine and considered essential personnel.
It wasn’t just Haack and her three children in the car, however. Also along for the ride was the Chilean foreign exchange student who lives with the family, Vincenzo Marchese, 16, and the daughters of a Marine who wasn’t able to evacuate immediately, Brandi Carlow, 12, and Abby Carlow, 9.
“Hectic, crazy – so many stops,” Haack said of the 18-hour car ride. “Then, riding down, my gas gauge didn’t want to work, so it told me I had half a tank, but I didn’t have half a tank.”
Hotels Haack said she looked into were either booked solid or too expensive.
“Thankfully, my family was waiting with open arms, and they didn’t care if there were extra stragglers coming along,” she said.
Thursday, the kids swam in the pool in Haack’s mother’s community. She said she’s planned a trip to Sea World for Friday.
Still, she said her husband and friends who couldn’t evacuate are on their minds.
“He calls the kids, they talk to him, we FaceTime,” Haack said. “The wind’s really bad, so it’s a bad connection, sadly, but as long as he sends me a text or something telling me he’s okay, then we’re good.”
There’s also concern about what Florence could bring to their home.
“Flooding – am I going to be able to get home? We’re just constantly checking the weather, checking updates, and hoping for the best,” Haack said.
The experience has had its positives. Haack said rest stops in South Carolina offered free cases of water for evacuees passing through the area.
She also said she pointed out power crews heading in the opposite direction to help out in the aftermath to the kids.
Florence has also been a sobering reminder about the need to be prepared when severe weather strikes.
“I don’t think many people realize that,” she said. “They don’t think that they’re going to be hit by it, but even as a Floridian, I thought to myself, 'Oh, it’s fine. This is not going to hit.’ But you need to be prepared.”