Carl Roberts has Chinese food, a case of water and a million-dollar view in his 17th floor Gulf front condo — all he needs, he says, to weather the massive storm coming straight at him.
Authorities have beseeched more than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia to evacuate before Hurricane Irma’s storm surge and fierce winds make it impossible to flee or be rescued. Many are staying nevertheless, even boasting about surviving Camille, Andrew, Katrina and other storms.
"No. 1, I don’t have anywhere to go," said Roberts, an attorney. "And I’m on the 17th floor. I have security shutters, so I should be quite safe here."
Mandatory evacuation orders apply to all barrier islands around South Florida, including Redington Shores, where Roberts’ condo complex towers over a narrow reach of sand. The entire Florida Keys were supposed to be emptied. Firefighters went door to door in mobile home parks, urging residents to get out.
People who refused to evacuate were not being arrested, but were told they wouldn’t be rescued once the storm arrives.
"You can call, but we’re not coming," Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Carol Walterson Stroud figured Irma would turn elsewhere at first. Then, she didn’t evacuate Key West because she’s a nervous wreck driving alone, and her husband — "a hard-headed conch" — wouldn’t leave.
So as Irma’s winds and rain began to lash Florida’s southernmost city, she hunkered in a borrowed apartment in the senior center where her husband Tim works, along with their granddaughter Sierra Costello, and dog Rocky. Her daughter, Breanna Vaughn, refused to leave her animals in her home a few blocks away.
"I’m afraid," Stroud acknowledged."Tonight, I’m sweating. Tonight, I’m scared to death."
Many poor people had few options. People with more resources didn’t want to stay in crowded shelters, or risk driving hundreds of miles north.
"If you drive to Atlanta or Tallahassee, you’re risking running out of gas and being in your car in a Category 4 hurricane," said Michel Polette, who lives in Miami Beach.
Mobile home parks were subject to mandatory evacuation orders, be they inland or near water, but even there, people stayed put.
"I’m not going anywhere," said Laurie Mastropaolo, 56, at the Treasure Village Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg. Her T-shirt, with a photo of "Grumpy Cat," said, "This is my happy face."