As evacuees continued to flow north through St. Johns County, hoping to outrun powerful Hurricane Irma, many were reporting fairly reasonable traffic Friday morning on Interstate 95.
Just before noon, at the Racetrac filling station off the State Road 207 interchange, customers were a mix of locals filling gas cans and RVs to those from points south.
“We left at like 6:30 [a.m.],” said Alicia Castillo, indicating that it took her about five hours to get here from Miami.
“Actually, traffic wasn’t that bad.”
Castillo said she wasn’t in an evacuation zone but wanted to get out of the city that was predicted to get hit with the massive hurricane that some have said is one of the most powerful on record in the Atlantic Ocean.
She was travelling with family and headed to Jacksonville where they have friends.
“My cousin, her two children and a grandpa,” she said as they all piled back into their sport utility vehicle.
John Braybant had also pulled off to refuel.
He said he left Winter Haven at about 9 a.m., headed to Pennsylvania with his girlfriend, her dad, her three kids and a bird.
They were traveling in two cars and were walking between them conversing as they refueled the cars.
Family members said they weren’t extremely concerned about their homes but took the opportunity to head north for a vacation with family while the worst of the recovery effort gets underway.
“It was not that bad of a trip,” Braybant said, adding that it would likely get better the further north he made it.
And as of noon, the Florida Department of Transportation website indicated that he just might be right.
Traffic was flowing north smoothly from Daytona Beach through Jacksonville according to an interactive map that showed only a few points of congestion — one near St. Augustine and a handful of others in and around Jacksonville.
But not everybody was headed out or through town. Some were just getting ready to ride out what they suspected may be a long time without power.
Gary Burris was one of them
“I have been here 40 years,” he said as he fueled his RV. “This might be the worst its ever been.”
But he still wasn’t leaving.
While he was planning to head to an emergency shelter for the worst of the storm, he said he knew the power could be out for days — if not weeks — as it had been after other storms he remembered.
That’s what the fuel in the RV was for.
“I am just getting enough gas for after the storm,” he said. “I can live in this.”