On Sept. 8, a mandatory evacuation order was implemented for barrier islands in Sarasota County.
Hours before it was set to make landfall in Florida, Hurricane Irma’s effects were showing up in the parking lot of the Longboat Key Publix.
Igor and Alina Korshukov were preparing to get to Illinois -- somehow. After 20 years vacationing on Longboat, this was their first experience with a hurricane.
“There’s a first time for everything,”Alina Korshukov said.
She said they were fearful their flight to Chicago would be canceled. If that happened, they were ready to make the 1,200-mile drive back home - and away from the storm. In either scenario, they said they weren’t worried.
“Some people panic, but what can you really do?” Igor Korshukov said.
Several parking spots over, others were trying to figure out a plan to get even farther away -- across the Atlantic Ocean. Julie and Jacques Deffense were scheduled to leave Longboat a week ago, but their flight home to Portugal was canceled. On Friday, they were worried they would lose a rescheduled flight out of Tampa for Tuesday.
They were just as worried about what they’d do until then.
An hour after the evacuation announcement, the Deffenses were wondering aloud if they should go to a Sarasota County shelter on the mainland or to their property in Lakewood Ranch. They also debated weathering the storm with Julie’s cousin on Longboat, but were taken aback by the evacuation order Friday afternoon.
“We don’t know what to do,” Julie Deffense said.
Paul Cooper was gathering supplies to relocate from his property on Lido Key to head to a home farther inland in Sarasota County. On Friday afternoon he was at the Longboat Key Publix filling his car with gallon jugs of water and other essentials. Among the supplies were a six-pack of Guinness, a six-pack of Angry Orchard Hard Cider and a grocery bag full of wine bottles.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Cooper said of his purchases.
On Tuesday, Jim Smith had already packed his car with 16 cases of water and 25 gallons of gas and left Atlanta for Longboat Key. Surprisingly, he wasn’t the only one heading south. Smith, an Emerald Harbor resident, was working his way to his family.
Later on in the week, as news trickled around the island that Longboat Key and surrounding barrier islands were under mandatory evacuation orders, Smith and other residents began filling bags with sand.
There was a mix of apprehension and alertness as residents dug in..
“If that rascal… if it gets in the Gulf, it could be ugly for us, but God’s in control,” Smith said.
Smith and his family will either go stay with friends or try to get on a flight out of town, but others were planning to stay. Linda Aitkin worried about wind and water but plans to stay put.
“At this point, there’s really nowhere to go,” she said.
Cathy Hendrickson and her husband plan to leave. This is her first hurricane, so she was getting out without knowing what to expect when she came home.
“I just hope we have something we can move back into,” Hendrickson said.
Across the street from the sandbag distribution site at Broadway Street beach access, Brian and Karen Feeney were boarding up their house in the Village. The two were heading to Dunedin, but that was their plan before the mandatory evacuation was ordered.
“We always knew someday it would probably happen,” Karen Feeney said.
The two were worried about flooding, but they felt did all they could do. Their front door was lined with sandbags and they placed plywood across their front window.
“If it’s all for nothing, better safe than sorry,” Karen Feeney said.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.