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Hurricane Irma: Why some residents refuse to leave

Despite governor Scott's severe warnings to 'go now', some Florida residents prefer to sit it out.

A skateboarder braves the rains in Florida as Irma makes her presence known.
A skateboarder braves the rains in Florida as Irma makes her presence known. AP

Forecasters and officials - including President Donald Trump - have left those in the path of Hurricane Irma in no doubt about the dangers of not evacuating.

But despite the risk of staying as Irma closes in on the Sunshine State, many Florida residents are preparing to wait out the storm.

Some are hurricane veterans, having lived through Camille, Andrew, Katrina and other storms unscathed. Thousands more are simply too poor to afford to evacuate and lack the resources - a car, money for petrol or food - to leave.

One Florida resident who refuses to evacuate is Carl Roberts whose emergency supplies include Chinese food, a case of water and a view of the storm from his Gulf front condominium.

Mr Roberts said: "Number one, I don't have anywhere to go.

"And I'm on the 17th floor. I have security shutters, so I should be quite safe here."

Carl Roberts has a grandstand view of Irma from his window overlooking the Gulf.
Carl Roberts has a grandstand view of Irma from his window overlooking the Gulf. AP

In an attempt to clear the entire Florida Keys, firefighters went door-to-door, urging residents to get out.

People who refused to evacuate were not being arrested, but were told they would not be rescued once the storm arrived.

"You can call, but we're not coming," Pinellas sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

Carol Walterson Stroud has not evacuated Key West because she hates driving alone and her husband, "a hard-headed conch", would not leave.

Instead she took cover in a borrowed flat in the senior citizens' centre where her husband Tim works, along with their granddaughter Sierra Costello, and dog Rocky.

 Carol Walterson Stroud shows her, right, with her granddaughter Sierra Costello, 12 and her husband Tim.
Carol Walterson Stroud shows her, right, with her granddaughter Sierra Costello, 12 and her husband Tim. AP

Her daughter, Breanna Vaughn, refused to leave her animals in her home a few blocks away.

"I'm afraid," Stroud acknowledged. "Tonight, I'm sweating. Tonight, I'm scared to death."

People even refused to leave particularly vulnerable mobile home parks.

Laurie Mastropaolo said she weathered Sandy and other storms on Long Island, and was not convinced she had to leave.

"I'm not going anywhere," said Laurie Mastropaolo.

"I'm not going to get on the road with the crazy people."

Evacuees fill Germain Arena, which is being used as a fallout shelter.
Evacuees fill Germain Arena, which is being used as a fallout shelter. AP

Former firefighter Roger Schwartz, 75, says several hundred of his mostly-retired neighbours were riding out the storm in the Gulfstream Harbour community of some 800 mobile homes.

"We may be sorry, I hope we're not," said Mr Schwartz, who was staying inside with his wife; his 50-year-old son Jeff; and their cat, Mr Murphy.

A survey of survivors to see why they fled or stayed put produced unexpected results, according to a study published by the American Meteorological Society this year.

"Those who stayed and who were under mandatory evacuation, they had more dependable social networks than those who evacuated," said Jennifer Collins, one of the University of South Florida researchers.

"Their neighbourhoods and local communities - they felt very comfortable to hunker down with them."

Kathleen Paca, 56, spray paints
Kathleen Paca, 56, spray paints AP

Regulars at Florida's famous dive bar Mac's Club Deuce certainly seemed to be embracing the community spirit.

Kathleen Paca, 56, spray painted "We're Open Irma" on the plywood covering the bar's windows, covering the same defiant statement about "Wilma" in 2005.

"It's not going to be that bad," she said.

"I'm on the second floor and have impact windows. I've thrown coconuts at my windows and they don't break."

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