Former Wollongong resident, now living in Florida, tells of bunkering down as Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc

AFTERMATH: Siblings Jeremy and Courtney Barnes, and (inset) some of the damage to the house where Courtney lives. Pictures: Supplied
AFTERMATH: Siblings Jeremy and Courtney Barnes, and (inset) some of the damage to the house where Courtney lives. Pictures: Supplied

A former Wollongong resident now living in Florida has described the “really scary” moments they experienced as Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc. 

Former Wollongong residents, siblings Jeremy and Courtney Barnes reside in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about 30 minutes north of Miami. 

“My brother lives about 15 minutes away from me,” Courtney, 30, said. 

“His apartment is up on the sixth floor near a really big lake, so he ended up shutting his apartment up and went over to a friend’s house who had recently had impact windows installed, specifically for hurricanes.”

Her brother was unharmed, and Courtney bunkered down with wife Laura and two other people. 

“We weren’t right in the direct path of it like the Miami people were, but we’ve had probably about 12 hours of weather going on and it’s only just started to calm down a little bit,” Courtney told the Mercury, on Sunday night Florida time. 

Mrs Barnes said they had prepared on Friday. “We put the plywood up on all the windows. We got emergency supplies, lots of food and water, lanterns… We knew the power was going out. 

“Once we knew it was almost coming, we put the last piece of plywood up that secured the back door and then kind of just waited for it to happen.”

Mrs Barnes, a dance teacher, said the ordeal had created “moments where it was really scary, because having plywood up on the windows we actually couldn’t see out”. 

“We could hear a lot of stuff going on around us … lots of loud noises, lots of banging, really heavy rain and we were worried about flooding because of the area we’re in. 

“We’re feeling a lot better than what we did. The past 12 hours have been pretty scary.

Supplied video from former Wollongong resident Courtney Barnes.

“As well as the hurricane, we kept having tornado warnings... there was one really close to our house.

“At one point there were four humans and three dogs all in this little bathroom when the tornado was coming, taking shelter. Luckily the tornado didn’t come by us. 

“We were really lucky in the end. We sustained damages, but nothing that has harmed anybody or anything around us.”

Mrs Barnes said she had worked on cruise ships in the past.

“I experienced a lot of hurricanes on the ship when I worked on there, but obviously the ship would be able to navigate around it,” she said.

“This is a very different experience. I didn’t quite know exactly what was going to happen.”