Utahns visiting Florida make preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma

Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 08, 2017

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- People living in Florida aren't the only ones bracing for the storm.

When Ashleigh Pickering and her 3-month-old son, Emmett, who live in Taylorsville, headed to Orlando a week and a half ago to visit family, there was no news of Hurricane Irma.

"It was relaxing for about the first week, and then we found out about Irma and it’s just been preparations," Pickering said.

Instead of relaxing by the pool, she's been helping her family stock up on supplies.

"They're going to ride it out here, so we've got four cases of water," Pickering said. "We grabbed the last jar of peanut butter at the store."

She's hoping to be back here in Utah before the brunt of the storm hits.

"My flight is booked for tomorrow at three, so the airports are closing at five, so I hope they don't push the closing time back at all because I'm pushing it kind of close," Pickering said.

Dawn Kern and her husband Jim, from Perry, were really looking forward to their trip to Cocoa Beach.

"We knew there was a hurricane but there was still a good possibility that it was going to turn, at that point and we had non-refundable tickets so we took a chance and flew out," Kern said.

Less than 24 hours after checking in to their hotel, they were forced to evacuate. They headed to Orlando.

"Every time we tried to get a hotel, they kept selling out right before our eyes," Kern said.

They finally got a room and tried to get a flight, but they were all sold out.

"We will leave here bright and early tomorrow morning to start driving back to Utah," Kern said.

With terrible traffic and reports of gasoline shortages, it won't be an easy journey.

"They have been saying on the local news there's new gas being brought in, we are full right now, that should get us out of the state of Florida," Kern said.

However, it's an easier journey than the one that lies ahead for the people of Florida.

"Just feel thankful that we have the option to get in the car tomorrow and drive out," Kern said.

Red Cross volunteer Eric Kiltz is planning to head to South Carolina Saturday to help.

“This is actually my 9th deployment with the Red Cross,” Kiltz said.

He’ll be working in a government operations center.

“Especially as they start getting information as to where people might need sheltering, where people might need supplies, that's something to coordinate with people like me who will be in those emergency operations centers," he said. "Then we work with our Red Cross headquarters to facilitate our service delivery."

It's a busy time for the organization.

"We've had a double whammy lately," Kiltz said. "We're still responding very heavily to Harvey, and of course now we're gearing up for Irma."

Kiltz will be helping in any way he can, with plans to stay down south for the next two weeks.