Australians in Florida prepare for monster Hurricane Irma

Spencer Hooker has four Australian inspired cafes in St Augustine, Florida, but instead of dishing up meat pies and flat whites to his American clientele he has been creating sandbags and buying plywood to board up windows.


With the monster-sized category five Hurricane Irma tearing through the Caribbean with winds exceeding 280 km/h and on target for a direct hit on Florida on Sunday, Mr Hooker and the large population of other Australian expatriates across the state spent Thursday getting ready.


“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Mr Hooker, 36, who has four Kookaburra Coffee cafes in St Augustine, on the northeast coast of Florida, told AAP.

The hurricane has killed at least ten people as it crashed through Caribbean islands including St Martin, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.

Mr Hooker and other Australians were waiting until Friday to get a better read on what path Irma would likely take before deciding whether to evacuate.

“One of my baristas is from Noosa and his wife is eight months pregnant,” Mr Hooker said.

The couple hopes to stay in the area where their doctor and hospital is, but are prepared to evacuate.

Another Australian, Cameron Pinnock, his wife Alyssa and two children aged seven and two, took no chances with staying in their home in Orlando in central Florida.

They flew north to Michigan, even buying a ticket for their family dog, to wait out the hurricane with family.

Gavin Caddy, an Australia lawyer in Fort Lauderdale on Florida’s southeast coast, is driving 240km north to be with friends in the central Florida city of Sebring.

“You can’t play games with this,” Mr Caddy said.

“It’s as wide as the state of Florida so the chances are it will hit the entire state and some areas are worse than others.

“There is nowhere in south Florida that is safe as far as I’m concerned.”


Another Australian in Fort Lauderdale, yacht broker David Nichols, is staying at his home that is eight kilometres inland on the New River.

He spent Thursday drilling plywood across windows and has stocked his fridges and freezer “with plenty of water, beer wine and spirits”.

Mr Nichols also has options if the power goes out.

“I have a large BBQ that uses propane and charcoal,” he said.

“My generator also has enough petrol to run for about five days and will run most of the house.”

Alcohol and Australian fare appears to be a key for the Australians as they bunker down.

Mr Nichols’ hurricane “Aussie survival kit” includes Four’N Twenty pies, a couple of bottles of Bundaberg Rum, Vegemite and Tim Tams.

Mr Pinnock, who endured last year’s Hurricane Matthew, said another common Florida tactic to get through a hurricane involved a mix of beer and red wine.

“You drink the beer while the power remains on and the beer is cold and then you switch to the red wine because you don’t have to keep it cold,” Mr Pinnock said.