As Irma evacuees return home after the storm, several of them will be leaving the residences of Kennesaw State students who opened their homes to shelter displaced Floridians.
Hurricane Irma hit south Florida as a Category 3 hurricane on Sept. 10 and moved up the west coast of the state before reaching Georgia as a tropical storm. The hurricane brought heavy flooding in areas such as the Florida Keys and Jacksonville, as well as power outages across the state and in parts of Georgia.
Florida officials ordered more than 6.5 million residents across the state to evacuate. Many of the evacuees ended up in Metro Atlanta where they could ensure their safety while also staying close to home, and several found themselves in the homes of KSU students who welcomed displaced friends, relatives and strangers.
One of these was Melissa Freeman, a resident of Saint Petersburg, Florida, who was sheltered by a KSU student. Freeman recalled how roadways became crowded as people grew anxious from awaiting the storm. Residents of both Florida and south Georgia stocked up on essentials such as water and gasoline and tried to travel to a safer area, crowding the roadways.
“I was able to leave Wednesday morning, so it took me an extra four hours to get to Kennesaw, but it was not as bad as others had it,” Freeman said. “It had taken my roommate 25 hours to get to where she is staying near Lake Lanier.”
“Traffic was stop-and-go most of the time,” she added. “I saw more accidents than I have ever seen with cars abandoned on the side of the road.”
Freeman lives in evacuation zone A, meaning it was mandatory for her to leave her home. Living in an older, wooden house between two bodies of water made it necessary to leave early on Wednesday.
From her home in Florida, she drove to KSU where she stayed in a dorm room with senior business management major Alex McGlashan for her first night in Georgia. She said that because she brought belongings with her, she ended up needing to get a hotel room at the Springhill Suites near KSU for a couple of days.
According to Fox News, the home-sharing company, Airbnb, activated its Disaster Response Program in Metro Atlanta and other parts of Georgia. The program allowed those in the area to volunteer their homes for free to Florida and South Georgia residents who evacuated, and it gave evacuees a way to search for free places to stay.
KSU also offered free football tickets to its Sept. 9 game against Tennessee Tech to evacuees who could provide a valid Florida driver’s license.