Former Arkansas Couple Escapes Irma

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- While some decided to ride out Hurricane Irma, one couple from Arkansas changed their plans early Saturday (Sept. 9) morning to get out of the storm's path.

Nichole and David Hamilton live in Lakeland, Florida, a town just east of Tampa.

At first the couple said they didn't think much of the hurricane and, like others, decided to stay home.

“This happens every year and we had Matthew last year that we weren’t concerned about," Nichole said. "So being so far inland its usually not a problem. You know you get some rain, but it’s usually not very threatening.”

She explained they saw milk and bread fly off the shelves like any other hurricane, but something happened that they were not used to seeing.

Nichole said people were also purchasing plywood to board up windows.

She saw some people struggling to find any on Saturday.

Saturday morning at 2, David looked at the hurricane again and that is when they decided to leave.

They went to Auburn, Alabama where they will stay until Tuesday (Sept. 12).

Then they will drive back home, but they are not sure what they will find when they get there.

“I think we’re mentally prepared for devastation," Nichole said.

The Hamiltons know others who decided to stay home instead of leaving.

Nichole said they know people who have made their homes as secure as possible and just want to be with family during this time.

Another group who has already made their way into Florida is the American Red Cross.

Julie Brown, the American Red Cross Executive Director of Northwest Arkansas, said they deployed volunteers days ago before the storm.

She explained they get their early so they can set up shelters, pass out food and get supplies ready because it is more difficult to get volunteers where they are needed after the storm.

They are asking for help in the form of volunteers or monetary donations.

Brown expects to see damage similar to what Hurricane Harvey left in Texas.

She said that will take a long time to clean up and in order to do that they will need as much help as they can get.

“Irma, same thing," Brown said. "We’re going to have to have resources, we’ve got volunteers down there already but most of our volunteers deploy for a 14 day period. So after that period we have to bring in new volunteers.”

After Harvey, she said they received about 700 calls an hour from people wanting to help.

The best place people can go to volunteer or make a donation is to their website at www.redcross.org.

Brown said they are no longer looking for Harvey volunteers, what the need now are people willing to help those affected by Irma.