'I'm prepared for the worst': Singaporean in Florida hunkers down as Hurricane Irma looms

'I'm prepared for the worst': Singaporean in Florida hunkers down as Hurricane Irma looms

Traffic on Interstate 75 while moving in both directions, was noticeably heavier in the northbound lanes as residents and visitors in Florida evacuate the area ahead of Hurricane Irma on Sep 8, 2017 in Punta Gorda, Florida. Florida appears to be in the path of the hurricane which may come ashore at category 4. (Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images/AFP)

SINGAPORE: Jerrold Wong spent Friday (Sep 8) scrambling to pack his belongings and an emergency kit, before Hurricane Irma hits. 

The Singaporean has been living in Florida since March, and like millions of residents in the state, he's been told to evacuate or hunker down before the monster storm arrives. 

"The whole of Florida is on edge," he told Channel NewsAsia from the city of Dunedin. "It’s a whole exodus. Everyone is just trying to leave the state ... the highways are all jam packed."

"There is a shortage of water, there is a shortage of gas. But at the same time we can do the best we can," he added.

Mr Wong, who would only say he works in student services, was first alerted to the severity of the situation on Thursday, when officials ordered the closure of all schools and government offices. Florida's governor also said all of the state's 20.6 million residents should be prepared to evacuate. 

Mr Wong noted that the situation has evolved very quickly in a span of 24 hours.

"Yesterday, people were aggressively trying to get all their foodstuff, gas and everything. Today, people don’t care about food. They just want to get out of Florida," he said.

US President Donald Trump on Friday described Hurricane Irma as a storm of "epic proportion". So far, it has killed at least 19 people across the Caribbean and reduced island resorts to rubble.

It has since weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane, according to the forecast on Saturday, but still packing powerful maximum sustained winds of 249kmh. Forecasters have also warned of storm surges of nearly four metres.

It's a frightening prospect for the Singaporean as he lives by the ocean, putting his home at great risk of flooding. Even though he has packed away his belongings and placed them as high as he can, Mr Wong believes there will be much loss and damage as a result of potential storm surges. 

"I'm prepared for the worst. (I think) I've got to start from scratch again," he said. "I'm prepared for everything to be gone."

File photo of Mr Jerrold Wong. (Photo: Supplied) 

Mr Wong said leaving Florida is not an option for him as he had to wait more than an hour at the petrol station to fuel up, and it will be hours more before he can even get out of the state given the massive jams.

Instead, he is prepared to move to a shelter first thing on Saturday morning, complete with his emergency pack which contains important documents, blankets, clothes and food that will last about three days.

But stocking up on supplies was not an easy task. "Water is now like liquid gold. I went to the store, all water sold out. So I filled up all my bottles of water, I put it in the fridge. My milk cartons, I filled it with water,"  Mr Wong told Channel NewsAsia.

Mr Wong says he waited for more than an hour to fill his car with fuel. (Photo: Jerrold Wong) 

Amid the chaos, Mr Wong said this experience has helped him realise never to take anything for granted.

"It's very sad because you take so much of life for granted," he said. "You have so much stuff. (And in such a situation) it's about choosing what is most important." 

Mr Wong preparing to move into a shelter on Saturday (Sep 9). (Photo: Jerrold Wong) 

"It's the best experience for me to (learn) to not take advantage of what life gives you. It's the worst experience because reality bites," he said. 

Source: CNA/dl