Atlantic coast evacuees enjoy safe shelter of Tampa Bay

The east coast exodus has produced an impromptu tourist season locally.

Johns Pass – For thousands of evacuees it was an easy decision. They packed up their homes, children and pets, booked the vacant rooms they could find and spent hours on the road to find safety in Tampa Bay.

“We’re terrified. We’re terrified,” said Jennifer Mobley. She, her husband, and her 14-year-old son live on Merritt Island. With the ocean five miles from their house, she worries that it might not be there after Matthew.

“That's what insurance is for and we got ourselves and that's all that matters, you know, everything can be rebuilt,” she said.

James Stansberry and Judy Benschop live on the Indian River in Vero Beach. They’re treating their stay on Treasure Island as a vacation. 

“You can worry, you know, but what’s that going to do? So we try to stuff it back -- the worry -- and just enjoy ourselves,” said Stansberry.

Stansberry says he didn’t want to go without power like he did during Hurricane Charley in 2004. Benschop has never experienced a hurricane.

“We just knew that we had to leave, that it would be safer,” she said.

That’s how the Dunns felt. They live just about 30 minutes from Fort Pierce near Okeechobee. While the family’s new to Florida, they’ve experienced severe weather.

“We lived in South Dakota a year and we survived an F-2 tornado with our 2-year-old, but she was 3-months at the time,” said Colleen Dunn.

When the couple started to see the forecast for Hurricane Matthew they made reservations at pet-friendly hotels on Johns Pass for the safety of their daughters: 8-months-old and 2-years-old.

“You can replace stuff, but you can't replace lives. We definitely wanted to make sure to get out for that reason for the girls,” she said.

Each family says they plan to stay through Saturday morning. They’ll decide whether to extend their stays after neighbors can tell them if there is power and if their homes are livable. 


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