Hurricane Irma strikes fear in residents at Florida trailer park

USA Today NetworkMelanie Payne, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press
Published 5:02 p.m. ET Sept. 9, 2017 | Updated 5:03 p.m. ET Sept. 9, 2017


Two residents, mobile home dwellers, discuss their differing views on evacuating during a hurricane. Jose Luis Martinez is leaving. Milagros Nieves is staying.
Melanie Payne/

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Sitting in the cross-hairs of Hurricane Irma, residents of Tropical Trailer Park in Fort Myers were making plans to get out.

“I’m scared,” said Jose Luis Martinez, 35. “Not so much for me, but for my kids.”

Friday, the father of two, was packing his pickup with diapers, bottled water and bedding. His wife was at her job in Cape Coral, but he had just called her and told her to come home. They were leaving.

To where? He answered with just one word: North.

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Other residents had plans to leave their single-wide trailers, some more than 30 years old, but only if the wind really picked up. And because there were places to go nearby, they could wait to flee, they reasoned.

If things start to get bad, Hector Zaldivar, 67, said he would take his brother and 90-year-old father to a restaurant where his sister works.

“It’s a fort,” Zaldivar said, in Spanish.

Maria Figuroa has two nearby options, she said. Sitting outside her trailer, in a white plastic chair, talking to her neighbors, she admitted she was scared of the hurricane. She’d been through a couple in her native Puerto Rico, she said. But never in Florida.

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It was her 69th birthday, she said, and she almost forgot, so worried about the hurricane. She planned to stay at a friend’s house around the corner or the restaurant where she works, just a block from her home.

Figuroa recognized that her old trailer would not withstand Hurricane Irma’s winds, predicted at more than 100 mph.

“You know, they’re not strong at all,” she said, sweeping her arm around to indicate the surrounding trailers. “I’m scared. I don’t want my home to go,” she said. Then she reluctantly posed for a photo in front of her home, hoping it won’t be “the last time.”

The gloom and doom Figuroa felt wasn’t shared by her friend and neighbor Milagros Nieves. The 47-year-old has no plans to leave. Her mobile home is strong, she said, because it’s newer than most of the others.

Even if the trailer wasn’t new, Nieves said, she’s not worried.

“I believe in God,” she said. “I’m safe.”


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