As Hurricane Irma moves closer to the state of Florida, it is impacting the lives of many people from Windsor-Essex.
Forecasters are warning Irma could slam headlong into the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, punish the entire length of the state's Atlantic coast and move into Georgia and South Carolina this weekend.
"Take it seriously," said Maj. Jeremy DeHart, a U.S. Air Force Reserve weather officer who flew through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet. "Because this is the real deal."
Windsor native Bob Boughner, the head coach of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, is among the residents who are following a mandatory evacuation order.
Boughner tells CTV Windsor the Panthers management had a meeting this week and decided to take action.
"Our owner didn't blink an eye,” says Boughner. “He's getting a charter jet down here tonight (Thursday) and we'll all leave tomorrow morning (Friday). The whole team.”
Boughner says he’s also taken precautions at his new home.
"I've got all my furniture to the highest level I can have it,” says Boughner. “I boarded up the windows, unplugged everything and emptied the freezers."
But not everyone is following the evacuation order.
Rob Snoes and Carolyn Wenzler of Ruthven are vacationing in Madeira Beach, and are not leaving the state.
“You just can't get any flights out now and we don't drive," says Snoes, who tells CTV Windsor they are prepared to stay put in an 11th floor condo during the storm. “We’re on vacation and we’re not leaving.”
As millions of people flee Florida, two people from Windsor-Essex are heading south into the storm’s path.
Two linemen from Essex Powerlines have volunteered to go to Florida to lend their expertise in rebuilding the electricity system in the state after Irma hits.
Dan Charron, the Manager of Operations at Essex Powerlines, tells CTV Windsor the same two employees helped on the U.S. east coast after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are going to Florida.
“They will be working 16-hour days, seven-days a week,” says Charron.
The workers will leave Friday with a bucket truck and join 14 other linemen from Chatham, St. Thomas and Goderich in a convoy south of the border.
Charron adds the labour costs, accommodations, meals and gas will all be covered by the utility in Florida.
CTV News also spoke with Enwin Utilities. Spokesperson Jim Brown says they are not sending a crew to Florida at this point. He adds they primarily only respond to emergencies in Ontario.
French, British and Dutch rescuers rushed aid to a heavily damaged string of Caribbean islands Thursday after Hurricane Irma left at least ten people dead and thousands homeless.
Warships and military planes were dispatched with food, water and troops after the fearsome Category 5 storm smashed homes, schools and roads, laying waste to some of the world's most beautiful and exclusive tourist destinations.