“It’s gone from living on the set of The Truman Show or The Stepford Wives to The Day After Tomorrow.” So says Royston Brady, former Lord Mayor of Dublin, now living in Florida in his new role of manager to the Bonaventure Resort outside Miami. He’s battening down the hatches in a big way as Hurricane Irma prepares to hit Florida like it has never been hit before. He tells Sean O’Rourke about the extent of the expected devastation.
“This really started kicking in around Monday. You could see there was a palpable sense of fear and panic when all the stores started selling out. You couldn’t get water anywhere. You couldn’t get gas for the car. It just became a real panic situation straight away. The evacuations have continued over the last couple of days. There are about 700,000 people in the evacuation zones… They’re actually predicting that parts of Miami won’t be inhabitable for up to a month. There’s no playbook for this.”
Rather than breaking up as other storms might have done, Irma is gaining speed if anything, causing complete panic.
“These things bring out the best in people and it can bring out the worst… There was one incident reported in a Walmart, a lady pulled a gun on somebody, they were trying to get water off the shelves. You’re talking six and eight-hour queues.”
Highways are jammed with people heading to safer ground and police presence is a constant, especially around gas stations where desperate drivers wait for deliveries of fuel. This is, as Royston puts it, the mother of all storms, which has left shocking death and destruction in its wake and is set for a direct hit on the Florida Keys, then straight up the centre of the state.
One of the hotels in Royston’s group is serving as the command centre for the Florida Power and Light Company who are working round the clock in preparation.
“They’re a fascinating operation to watch. We’ve given them two ballrooms and they’ve put in 850 cots for all their teams. People will come back, sleep, they’ll go back out in teams continuously now. An indication of how seriously they’re taking it is they had originally booked in with us for five days then it went to ten days, and now they’re booked in until the 24th of September. We have the some of the local police and law enforcement staying with us as well. All in all, probably at the moment, we’d be staring at the guts of 2000 people staying over the weekend… At the moment, it’s a situation of all hands on deck.”
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