WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Millions of people are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
The Category 5 storm with wind speeds at 185 miles per hour has already devastated islands in the Caribbean Sea and killed nine.
Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, has already said Irma is bigger and stronger than Hurricane Andrew that devastated the state in 1992.
Thousands of people have been evacuated.
“Protecting life is our absolute top priority. No resource or expense will be spared to protect families. That means you need a plan now, where you will go. Don’t wait. Figure out where you will go,” said Gov. Scott.
Gov. Scott says 1,700 troopers are working 12-hour shifts to help move traffic out of the state ahead of Irma’s landfall.
One of the people trying to flee Hurricane Irma is from Kansas.
Jessica Mateo, 23, lived in Wichita for more than 20 years, before moving to Naples, Florida a year and a half ago.
Now, she’s facing her very first hurricane, which happens to be one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
Mateo says last weekend she was at Disney World with her husband.
Just a few days later, the lifelong Kansan says she began making preparations, ahead of the hurricane.
“So, we just went grocery shopping, got all the food we needed, medical supplies, gas, propane, all the necessities here about three days ago,” said Mateo.
Mateo says that task wasn’t so easy.
“We went, I think, three towns, three cities north of Naples to try to get water, bottled water and bread and all the stores, Walmart, Publix, were out of it,” said Mateo.
The scene at local gas stations, Mateo says, was much the same.
“The lines are insane, the gas prices are going up, a lot of gas stations are honestly closing down because they don’t have much,” said Mateo.
Mateo says she’s spent the week packing up valuables and memories, debating whether to evacuate.
It wasn’t until this morning when she hit the road with her husband, Matt, and their cat, Meow Meow.
All the while, her mother, Nancy Peters, has been here in Wichita, keeping in constant contact with her daughter.
“She made the comment to me, you know tornadoes in Kansas, they come and they go, but this hurricane is just, it’s taking its time and it is a completely different animal for them,” said Peters.
Peters is stressed, knowing her daughter is going through something no one in the family has ever dealt with.
“I’ll be ready for the weekend to be over, we just want to know that everyone is going to be okay hopefully and definitely want to make sure our family is okay,” said Peters.
As for Mateo, she says they finally found a hotel room available in Sarasota.
“If it gets worse or starts tracking more this way, we will probably head further north, but I’m hoping and thinking we’ll be okay here,” said Mateo.
Mateo says she won’t have to worry about her job while she is gone.
She says the Starbucks where she works closed down so employees could evacuate with their families.