Hurricane forces FL candidates to change campaign plans

CNN's Ryan Nobles reports from Tallahassee, Florida where candidates are changing their campaign plans as hurricane Michael approaches.

Posted: Oct 10, 2018 3:25 PM
Updated: Oct 10, 2018 3:45 PM

More than 1,000 people move to Florida every day. That means there are a lot of new Floridians who haven't experienced a hurricane evacuation yet.

As a relatively new Floridian myself, I have a story for my new neighbors living in the Panhandle, getting ready to experience the wrath of Hurricane Michael.

Last year, when Hurricane Irma hit Tampa Bay, I was a hurricane dummy. Well, maybe not a dummy, but definitely a rookie. I hadn't yet experienced my first tropical storm evacuation. All that changed when Irma churned its way up the Gulf Coast of Florida in September, and the eye of the storm passed right over my adopted city of Tampa.

From my first evacuation experience, which involved driving 600 miles in 14 hours, I've learned the following lessons, which I gladly share with my fellow Floridians and others who live in coastal areas.

Tip #1: Fill your tank early -- and often

My fellow Floridians drilled this mantra into my head from my very first few days in the Sunshine State, and I'm glad I took their advice. I had a full tank of gas well in advance of leaving town. If I had waited until the last minute, I might have been out of luck. As the storm was approaching, lots of gas stations had those telltale plastic bags over the pump. Remember: If a gas station has gas, pull over and get some immediately.

Tip #2: Have food and water for your road trip

Again, this was advice I'm glad I took. I had plenty of granola bars, chips, bottles of water and other assorted snacks for my journey. It's a good thing, too, because I was on the road literally all night long, from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next day.

Tip #3: Leave town super early

Although I left town days before Irma hit the Tampa Bay area, it wasn't early enough. I thought I could make up for lost time by taking a less-traveled state road instead of the congested interstate. It didn't matter. I still ran into traffic jams. Likewise, I thought I could find a hotel vacancy by driving northwest into Alabama instead of due north into Georgia (where most people were headed). That didn't matter, either. Nothing beats leaving earlier than everybody else.

Which leads me to my next point...

Tip #4: Book a hotel while you still can

As I drove through rural north Florida, my thoughtful sister and brother-in-law called me from safe-and-dry Cincinnati with some news: "We found a hotel vacancy for you in Alabama!" I should have heeded their advice to book a place. But I wasn't completely sure I could make it to Alabama. What if traffic came to a complete standstill for hours at a time? What if I ran out of gas before I got to Alabama?

I should have stopped "what iffing" myself. It turned out that hotel rooms were in even shorter supply than gas. Which is why I drove for 14 straight hours before I found a vacancy. Six hundred miles later -- in Birmingham. So, book that hotel room -- or that "vacancy" at the home of your long-lost friend from high school or college. Or, if you're not sure how far you can get, book multiple places. One of the most dramatic things I saw on my long journey was the sight of hundreds of people sleeping in their cars at rest areas. With their kids. And their pets.

As it happened, Tampa was luckily spared yet again from the kind of damage other Florida cities have had to endure. But it could have played out differently. Millions lost power and faced flooding. If you're physically capable, and your local authorities have recommended it, you should evacuate. This is something the residents of the Carolinas, where Florence's death toll has climbed to 51, know all too well.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15752

Reported Deaths: 739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds100625
Lauderdale73862
Madison72423
Scott65012
Neshoba64639
Jones62928
Forrest56438
DeSoto5427
Rankin4398
Holmes42928
Leake42712
Copiah3124
Jackson30813
Attala29817
Yazoo2814
Newton2714
Leflore26431
Lincoln26329
Harrison2587
Monroe25725
Oktibbeha23912
Lamar2385
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Wayne2041
Pike20311
Adams19915
Noxubee1866
Washington1787
Warren17310
Covington1652
Jasper1634
Bolivar16211
Lee1536
Smith15211
Kemper14411
Clarke14418
Lafayette1364
Chickasaw13512
Coahoma1254
Carroll11711
Winston1171
Marion1159
Clay1124
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Tate941
Grenada943
Yalobusha935
Hancock9111
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Montgomery851
Sunflower843
Union835
Marshall833
Jefferson Davis773
Tippah7311
Panola713
Webster692
Calhoun654
Amite641
Humphreys607
Walthall560
Tunica553
Prentiss533
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Pontotoc353
Quitman330
Tishomingo320
Stone300
Franklin292
Tallahatchie271
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene131
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18150

Reported Deaths: 644
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2239116
Jefferson1837102
Montgomery171040
Tuscaloosa78315
Marshall6939
Franklin5567
Lee54833
Shelby51720
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41118
Chambers35525
Walker3542
Elmore3548
Madison3394
Baldwin2909
Morgan2801
Dallas2723
Etowah25711
DeKalb2483
Lowndes24612
Coffee2361
Sumter2247
Autauga2214
Houston2204
Bullock2095
Pike2030
Colbert1842
Hale1739
Russell1710
Marengo1706
Barbour1671
Lauderdale1642
Calhoun1603
Choctaw1538
Wilcox1487
Clarke1442
Cullman1430
Randolph1277
St. Clair1231
Marion12211
Pickens1164
Dale1150
Talladega1135
Limestone1060
Chilton1011
Greene944
Winston900
Macon824
Henry802
Covington801
Jackson782
Crenshaw753
Bibb751
Washington706
Escambia633
Blount621
Lawrence500
Geneva430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Monroe402
Perry390
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Unassigned00
Tupelo
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Columbus
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Oxford
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