OLATHE, Kan. (KSNW) – Evacuate or hunker down. Those were the options many in Florida faced this week. Some Kansas natives decided to stay, while others left as soon as they could.
Kara Phongsavath has lived in Clearwater, Florida, for seven years. She remembers dealing with Hurricane Irma in 2017. Which is a major reason why she took her kids and got out quickly.
“Sitting through Irma, just the high whistling noise and the fact that it’s already started. I didn’t want the kids to have to sit through that,” Phongsavath said. “My biggest concern is the roof over our head, but that is replaceable. My husband and family are not.”
Sunday night, as Hurricane Ian‘s path moved, Phogsavath and her husband decided she and the kids needed to leave. After having their flight from Tampa Bay canceled, they decided to fly out of Orlando.
“My husband drove on the shoulder the entire way. It did have signs that said the lane was the shoulder was open for use, but it was absolutely terrifying. It was stop-and-go traffic, and we were just praying we made it there,” she said.
In the nick of time, Phongsavath and her kids got on the last flight to Kansas City before the Orlando airport closed. Her husband waited at their home for Ian to pass.
“It’s just hard leaving my husband and friends and family behind,” she said.
On the other side of Florida, in Melbourne, Emma Murphy and her family are dealing with their first hurricane experience.
“It could look like a (category) three on our site, or it could look like just a tropical storm. We don’t know,” Wichita native Murphy said.
They are preparing, nevertheless.
“Which has been shuttering up, making sure that you have the food and water and prepare for the powerlines to go down so that we can make sure that we’re communicating with our family back in Kansas,” Murphy said.
Both are hoping for the best.
“Just pray, pray, that is all. The relief that we will need afterward, it will come,” Phongsavath said.
As of Wednesday evening (when this story was posted), the latest update, Phongsavath heard from her husband in Clearwater was that winds were high, power was flickering, branches were beginning to fall, and several friends were without power.