Millions in the Southeast headed their state government’s warnings Thursday, getting out of dodge before Hurricane Matthew approached.
However, as most residents up and down the Florida coastline packed up and left their beachside homes, there were plenty of people who stayed behind to ride out the storm and taking a calculated risk in doing so.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Brevard County officials expressed concern about those who didn’t evacuate the coast. The 2010 census recorded about 90,000 living in the barrier islands, but Don Walker told the Sentinel that only 3,500 have checked into the county’s 15 emergency shelters.
“It would be very unsafe to have stayed on the barrier island,” he said. “There are lives in danger.”
Brevard County officials said that those who chose to stay need to stay inside their homes as the storm approaches and don’t even step outside until a day or two after it passes. Walker added that emergency personnel might to be able to get to the barrier islands if there was an emergency.
Kevin Draddy, of Cape Canaveral, admitted to the Sentinel that the storm did scare him, but chose to stay anyway as he was apprehensive about bringing his dog with him to a pet-friendly shelter.
Tracey Lewis and her boyfriend Michael Culpepper call Merritt Island their home and were one of the spots in Brevard County under evacuation order. However, Lewis told the paper that they couldn’t afford to leave their home.
“I don’t really have anywhere to go,” she added.
Lewis said she rode out Hurricane Andrew, but was worried about the debris that could be flying around. She said she didn’t feel safe bringing her children to a shelter and prepped for storm at home instead.
Some University of Central Florida students decided to wait out Matthew as well. Students were seen in their dorms hanging out or playing video games as the powerful hurricane made its way up the coast.
“I didn’t feel like going home,” Brett Ellinport, a junior, told the paper. “Going home would be Miami so, like, it’s not that much better.”
Most of the campus dorms were evacuated, but those who had close friends in the four Towers dorms were able to stay. Those dorms were not evacuated.
Rapper Vanilla Ice chose to ride out the storm in his home in West Palm Beach. That area was expected to get hit hard by winds and rain from Hurricane Matthew. He provided updates on his Twitter account.
Meanwhile further south, residents in Fort Lauderdale used Thursday to party instead of panicking over the hurricane.
A huge crowd spent the day tossing back beers and singing along with a guitar player at the Elbo Room, situated on a corner in the heart of an area that’s typically overrun by college students during spring break.
A smaller crowd partied at another bar one block over. And just up the street, Kim Siegel pranced like a gazelle atop a squat beachside wall as a friend shot videos.
“I’m happy to have a breeze. We haven’t had one months,” she said.
Although Fort Lauderdale was initially in Matthew’s crosshairs, forecasters said the hurricane didn’t move inland as far south as first expected. So rather than hunkering down in her home just off the coast, Melody Fortunato took her German shepherd for an afternoon walk. She also spent a few hours watching TV and cleaning out files on her two computers.
“I’m just doing things … you don’t normally do,” she said.
Fort Lauderdale residents took all the necessary precautions for Matthew, stripping store shelves clean of bottled water and bread and moving luxury yachts while the storm was still days away. A luxury Bentley was nestled safely beside Toyotas and Jeeps in the vault-like parking garage of a resort hotel.
But the worse never came. So Michael Levi and a buddy went swimming in the ocean, bobbing down the beach in foamy white spray kicked up by Matthew.
“It’s not the brightest idea in the world, but it’s fun,” said Levi of Pembroke Pines, Florida. “A lot of people are afraid to look at this, and actually it’s quite beautiful. It’s quite amazing. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime type thing.”
Adam Bator went to the beach to ride the waves. Along with about a half-dozen others, Bator strapped a board to his feet and spent the morning in the ocean being pulled along by a kite that was puffed out by Matthew’s wind.
“It’s a major adrenaline rush,” he said. “It’s surfing times 10.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.