WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — When it comes to hurricanes, Rhode Island native John Sabourin doesn’t take any chances.
The West Palm resident also has a home in Johnston, and decided to head north as soon as he heard Hurricane Ian was approaching the Sunshine State.
Sabourin touched down at T.F. Green International Airport Tuesday night. He described his journey to the Ocean State as “chaotic,” since thousands of other people were also scrambling to get out of the hurricane’s path.
“That gives you an idea of how big this monster is, and how it’s going to effect the entire state,” he said.
Sabourin said he boarded up his home in Florida as best he could before leaving, even though his residence isn’t in the storm’s direct path.
“I’m from New England, and I thought I knew what a hurricane was until I moved to South Florida,” he said. “Now I know what to do. When they say a hurricane is coming … you take advantage of that and you don’t doubt it.”
Sabourin’s daughter Michelle Drazsky is riding out the storm at her home in Port St. Lucie. While she’s not in the storm’s direct path, she tells 12 News she’s already seeing the impacts firsthand.
“It’s a mess,” Drazsky said, adding that the vast majority of her neighborhood is already flooded.
The Category 4 storm made landfall Wednesday afternoon 100 miles south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, sparing the cities from its first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.
But even so, the Tampa Bay area will still experience hurricane-force winds and nearly two feet of rain.
Millions of Floridians were forced to evacuate prior to the storm’s arrival, with the National Weather Service predicting life-threatening storm surges and wind speeds of up to 155 mph in the eyewall.
The order sent Floridians and tourists alike into a frenzy to leave the state. Traffic was backed up for miles on major highways, and airports were flooded with travelers anxious to get on the next flight out of the state.
Flights out of the airports along the Florida peninsula have been canceled through at least Thursday.