Hurricane Matthew: ‘If it hits … we will not have a home’

00:48 - Source: CNN
Rick Scott: Hurricane Matthew will kill people

Story highlights

NEW: Island resident debating whether to leave: "It's scary, and I didn't sleep last night"

Family abandons their boat home as Hurricane Matthew barrels toward Florida

CNN  — 

Rosa Linda Román and her family poured their dreams into their new home: a boat docked in West Palm Beach, Florida.

But this week, they started seeing frightening reports about deadly Hurricane Matthew.

“The boat is in direct path of the hurricane at this point. If it hits as the model predicts, we will not have a home anymore,” Román said.

When the possible path of the storm became clear, the family attempted to find a marina farther inland, but the ones that could handle a boat the size of theirs already were full.

With Hurricane Matthew swiping Florida as a Category 4 storm, many coastal residents like Román have fled their homes.

More than 2 million people have been urged to flee in parts of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia as a state of emergency has been declared in the three states.

Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall early Friday. The storm has killed nearly 300 people in Caribbean countries

Learning what matters

Like many evacuees, Román doesn’t know if her family will have a home to return to after the hurricane.

Three months ago, Román, her husband and their three kids moved from New Mexico into a sailing catamaran in Palm Beach. They prepped their boat, called Dawn Treader, for a journey to the Bahamas in December.

But those plans feel very distant now.

Rosa Linda Román, her husband and their three children had to evacuate their home, a boat, because of Hurricane Matthew.

“It’s scary,” said Ahava Goldfein, Román’s 11-year-old daughter. She packed her belongings and helped secure the boat with her parents, to prevent parts from becoming flying projectiles during the storm.

“My dad’s been saying: ‘Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,’ she said. “I wanted a plan. Let’s say it hits with the speed that they say it’s at. What would we do?”

Ahava and her family crammed what they could into their minivan and said farewell to their home. Román posted a Facebook video with tears in her eyes as the family made last-minute preparations.

They drove across the state to Fort Myers on Wednesday night, away from the storm.

“You learn what’s important really fast,” Román said, after her family checked into a hotel room. “My kids are getting an early education on what matters. What matters is what’s in this hotel room right now.”

Rush to stores and roads

As the storm neared Florida, long lines snaked in front of gas stations. Cars crammed highways. Miami officials lifted all tolls on its expressways to aid the exodus.

Shoppers waited in front of a Publix store in Miami Shores, trying to stock up on water, canned foods and batteries. Residents also lamented price increases on high-demand items, although Florida law prohibits price gouging in essentials such as food, water and gas.

“They’re expensive, especially, I mean, during a hurricane,” said Caroline Levy told CNN affiliate WSVN, about the price of gas. “All kinds of families should have access to get what they need, and it makes it more difficult for everybody.”

Evacuees scrambled to find hotels. Many were completely booked.

Cars crammed roads as people fled evacuation zones in Florida as Hurricane Matthew approached.

Like the ‘Walking Dead’

Roseanne and Marshall Lesack moved to Boca Raton from California last year. They’ve been through wildfires and earthquakes – but this is their first hurricane.

Their rental home didn’t have the proper fortifications, so they took their three children to a relative’s home, which has aluminum shutters covering the windows.

“It definitely feels like ‘The Walking Dead,’ like Armageddon,” she said of the shuttered effect. “You don’t know what’s going on outside.”

Since they can’t look outside, they’re keeping the television on to monitor for updates. Unlike in an earthquake, which takes you by surprise, there’s time to prepare for a hurricane.

But then, you wait and try to keep your children busy. You play board games, read books, watch movies, bake cookies, muffins and ziti to keep the kids busy. The waiting is the hardest part, Lesack said.

“At the end of the day, we know we’re going be safe,” she said. “All the stuff can be replaced.”

‘It’s scary’

Karen Kelly said her suitcase is packed, but she doesn’t plan to leave Tybee Island, Georgia, despite an evacuation order.

“It’s scary, and I didn’t sleep last night, you know, (thinking) do you do this? Or do you do this?” she told CNN’s Sara Ganim.

The bed and breakfast owner said she hopes to stay on the island in case someone needs her help after the storm hits.

“My No. 1 concern is to make sure that the two- and four-legged creatures on Tybee have somebody here to feed them,” she said.

Karen Kelly, who runs a bed and breakfast in Tybee Island, Georgia, said she plans to stay put so she can help people if the storm hits.

Preparing for a ‘hurricane party’

In Daytona Beach, Florida, the boardwalk was desolate as tourists and business owners alike took cover.

But not everyone heeded calls to evacuate.

Daniel Myara barricaded his business, Cruisin’ Cafe, with plywood and nails as the storm approached.

He’s not going anywhere. Myara, who’s lived in the city for 25 years, said he’s prepared with alcohol and beer.

And the new makeshift advertisement sprayed on the wood boards covering his restaurant’s windows show it.

“Open,” it reads. “Honk for hurricane party inside.”

Myara has spent three days securing his fortress. And plenty of money.

“One thing I forgot to do, I should have bought stock in Lowe’s and Home Depot,” he said. “That would have been nice. “

Playing it by ear

In Charleston, South Carolina, Cheryl Quinn told CNN’s Stephanie Elam she was planning to hunker down. She and her husband were fine a year ago when Charleston endured heavy rain after a brush with a big storm.

“It was kind of a party down here. I hate to say that,” because storms can be scary, she added.

Still, Quinn has a hotel reservation just in case.

“We’re kind of just playing it by ear.”

Officials cautioned residents of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia not to wait to decide whether they should stay or go.

“This is serious. … We have to prepare for a direct hit. So again, if you need to evacuate and you haven’t, evacuate,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday. “This storm will kill you. Time is running out.”

‘We accept the risk’

Bill and Linda Stebbins

Bill and Linda Stebbins have made up their minds: They’re staying.

They’ve lived in their Daytona Beach for almost two years, but they’ve spent their entire lives in the South. They’ve weathered storms before and they’re ready to do it again.

“This is our last home,” Bill Stebbins said. “We just felt like we’re together and that’s all that matters.”

They took their last ride in their golf cart Thursday night before the storm is expected to do its worst. They have food and water ready and they’ve boarded up their windows.

“We would rather be here to take care of what might happen as opposed to being forced away and then coming home to deal with it,” Linda Stebbins said.

“It’s a personal decision we’ve made together,” her husband added. “We accept the risk.”

CNN’s Rolando Zenteno, Sara Ganim, Sara Sidner, Stephanie Elam, Robert Ray and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.