The family of an NBC 5 photographer is desperately trying to get out of Florida as Hurricane Irma continues on a path toward the state, leaving massive destruction in its wake.
The family of nine, including photographer Joe Amigleo’s wife and six daughters, are traveling in their minivan after being unable to find airline tickets out of the state.
Amigleo’s wife, Misty, suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine and large joints. She had recently moved her family to Cape Coral, Florida because the warm weather helps ease her pain, but her husband was forced to stay in Chicago to help pay for their medical bills.
As they begin their urgent trek out of the state, Misty Amigleo said little water has been left on store shelves and many gas stations have run out of gas. Some stations, she said, had police officers guarding pumps after fights were reported.
After days of shopping at numerous stores searching for water and traveling to find gas, the Amigleo family hopes to make their escape from the storm’s potential path.
But many of their neighbors are staying in their homes, hoping for the best.
The Amigleos hope to arrive in Chicago by Friday evening.
Hurricane Irma has killed at least 10 people as the dangerous Category 5 storm continued its destructive march across the Caribbean early Thursday.
The storm was increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday, prompting the governor to declare an emergency and officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Forecasters said it could punish the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties to give local governments "ample time, resources and flexibility" to prepare for the storm. President Donald Trump also approved a federal emergency declaration for the state ahead of the storm, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Throughout South Florida, officials readied evacuation orders and people raided store shelves, buying up water and other hurricane supplies. Long lines formed at gas stations and people pulled shutters out of storage and put up plywood to protect their homes and businesses.
Thousands of flights had already been canceled by Thursday morning.
The last major storm to hit Florida was 2005's Wilma, its eye cutting through the state's southern third as it packed winds of 120 mph. Five people died.