Canadians in Florida bracing for Irma


The house belonging to Audrey Foy, a young woman living in Florida who is originally from Quebec, looked like a bunker Friday.

It was hard to find her front door as the facade of her home had been boarded up in anticipation of hurricane Irma, which was scheduled to land on the peninsula this weekend.

“I’m thinking the worst,” said Foy, who lives in Hollywood, Fla. “That our roof will be blown off. That we won’t have electricity for weeks or months. And I’m afraid.”

Many Quebecers living in and around Fort Lauderdale were preparing to be hit by the biggest hurricane of their lives.

Police vehicles circled around the rare gas stations that still had gasoline Friday. Large retail stores were packed with people but were getting ready to close, like most stores in the region.

Nancy Teske Wissler, who is originally from Buckingham, Que., and her husband Dean were installing large boards over their windows at their home in Davie. As a nurse, she can’t leave the city because she needs to be at work in the local hospital.

Her pool was full of water, though, which she believes will help with flushing the toilets after the storm.

“This is very very dangerous,” she said. “The winds will blow everything away. It’s a category 4. It’s a big girl coming.”

Back at Foy’s home, her kitchen table was stacked with provisions: baby food for her three-month-old, water and a lot of propane.

“We have bread and peanut butter,” she said. “They say we aren’t going to have electricity so we can’t make sandwiches with meat and what not.

“We’re going to grab all our belongings that are important. Birth certificates, passports, insurance papers. Anything that can help us just in case the roof gets blown off — at least we’ll have those. We’ll just wait and see.”

More than 500,000 people living in the Miami-Dade county, which is in southeast Florida, have received evacuation notices.

Sandra Belzile started her hurricane preparations Tuesday but couldn’t find any water in stores that day.

So she waited in line in her car at the local Costco for one hour just to get into the parking lot.

She purchased the maximum water limit per person: four packs.

“I am very scared,” Belzile said in an interview outside her condo in Pompano Beach. “But at the same time I’m reassured because my partner lived through hurricane Wilma (in 2005), which was intense. You just have to be prepared.

“If the eye of the storm passes, it becomes incredibly calm inside the hurricane. And that can last up to half an hour. Some people get curious and leave their house — you can’t be like that.”

Belzile, who works for Le Soleil de la Floride newspaper, said she would spend Friday boarding up the parts of her house that were still unprotected.

Despite the sunny skies, everyone was preparing for the hurricane, but also for its aftermath.

Residents were expecting to be without electricity for days and to be unable to travel around due to debris in the streets.