MIAMI — The last time a hurricane this massive blew through South Florida, George Leather thought he was going to die.
He was 12, growing up in Perrine, when Hurricane Andrew whirled out of the Atlantic.
He hadn’t heard a sound like that before. Hasn’t since.
“It’s really loud,” Leather, now 37, said. “Just rattling really fast.”
He and his family ran from room to room as the windows blew out.
“I never really had prayed as a kid until that moment,” he recalled. “It’s never really left my mind.”
Leather lives just a little north today in unincorporated Miami-Dade County. He thought about leaving with his family, but moving the pets was too much of a hassle. He’s a high school teacher now — physical science and chemistry.
On Tuesday, the kids started figuring it out. The hurricane was coming to them. “I think they just stopped psychologically being in school,” Leather said.
They know something is coming, but Leather is convinced they don’t really know what.
Not until they see the trees down everywhere.
Not until they hear that sound.
Will Irma be as big as Andrew? Bigger?
“I’ll have to see it to believe it,” Leather said.
— ZACK SAMPSON, Times staff writer
Folks in my 'hood are hunkering down. #tbtirma
Sunshine Health, Envolve PeopleCare and LifeShare have joined to offer a 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline at 1-877-941-8079 for anyone affected by Hurricane Irma, now and after it makes landfall in the United States.
This is awesome. This construction site is in #DunedinFlorida & this is today. Passing getting parents to prepare for #IRMA. Lots of loose construction materials and I don't see anyone securing this. These construction materials will serve as deadly debris for the adjacent residents and businesses. Middle school, acting as a shelter, is just down the road a bit. #TBTIRMA
A release on the diocese's website said the bishop was not ordering pastors to cancel mass. The decision is up to them. Some churches have already canceled services because of the approaching storm, but others still plan to proceed with normal mass schedules.
At 8 p.m. the eye of Hurricane Irma was about 315 miles southeast of Miami. The storm had sustained winds of 155 mph and it moving west at 12 mph, a little slower than earlier.
The forecast track keeps Irma moving up the peninsula of Florida after coming ashore near the Florida Keys on Sunday morning. Forecasters warn of high winds, storm surge and flooding rains for much of the state.
The Tampa Bay area remains under a hurricane watch and a storm surge watch.