Whatever happens with Hurricane Irma in South Florida, the one thing people won’t soon forget is the hunt for gasoline in the days leading up to the storm’s arrival.
By Wednesday morning, five days before the massive storm was expected to impact the region, very few stations still had fuel, and drivers swarmed the stations that still had some.
“Everyone’s out of gas, so you might as well get some while you can,” said Bill Burkhardt of Key Largo as he filled up a gas container at the Mobil station at mile marker 92.4 in Tavernier.
Burkhardt said he’s taking his chances and sticking the storm out despite the mandatory tourist and residential evacuations.
“I’ve been through four hurricanes,” he said.
Governor Rick Scott said during a press conference in Marathon Wednesday morning that the state is working with fuel companies to replenish supplies at empty stations. He also urged people not to stock up on gasoline they may not end up using.
“Take what you need,” Scott said.
Jeff Farnam of Tavernier was filling several containers with gasoline because, unlike Burkhardt, he planned to leave the Keys before Irma arrives.
“I think I’m going to leave,” he said as he pumped fuel into containers in the back of his pickup truck. “I thought about staying, but I’m probably going to play it safe. I’m going north, probably to Orlando and see what happens.”
Audrey Kokenzie is also driving out of harm’s way. She left her house in Key West about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. She said she was heading to either Tampa or Jacksonville.
Kokenzie was filling up her Kia Soul at the Speedway station on U.S. 1 in Florida City, the first place she was able to find gas since she topped off with premium when she left the Southernmost City. She was born and raised in the Keys, and this is the first storm since 1998’s Hurricane Georges that concerned her enough to leave.
“I didn’t want to leave, but we didn’t want to be there if another [Hurricane] Andrew happens,” Kokenzie said, referring to the 1992 storm that devastated much of south Miami-Dade County.
Those leaving the Keys didn’t hit much traffic as they drove through the island chain, but they were met with a miles-long traffic jam on the Florida Turnpike as they continued north.
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204