Waterloo native braces for unknown as Hurricane Irma nears - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo native braces for unknown as Hurricane Irma nears

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As Hurricane Irma begins to batter Florida Saturday night, millions are bracing the unknown of what the storm will bring, including Waterloo native Jeff Sonksen. 

Sonksen, who's lived in Florida for about twenty years, says he's seen the wrath of about six hurricanes-including Charley and Matthew.

Currently, he lives in Longwood, which is north of Orlando. Although he lives inland, he was surprised to see that many of his neighbors were not boarded up Saturday morning. 

"Like this is supposedly the biggest hurricane ever recorded and it looks like it's coming right directly at us, but people are like asleep at the wheels for some reason," said Sonksen. 

According to Sonksen, Longwood, because it sits more inland,  isn't being evacuated right now except for mobile homes and trailer parks. 

"Home Depot, Lowe's, nobody has plywood," said Sonksen. "Like that was the first thing to go. So I expected to see everyone boarded up but then almost nobody. I was driving around for like half an hour, forty-five minutes driving through neighborhoods today, and I think I saw three houses."

Unlike his neighbors, Sonksen boarded up his home Saturday afternoon. Sonksen, a local artist, even made sure to secure down his stretch of more than 500 murals called "Paint the Trail," in Seminole County. 

"My art's been through nasty hurricanes and storms, and I've never had a problem with it," said Sonksen. 

Although they're not evacuating in Longwood, he says people from down south are moving in to the area to seek shelter. 

"There was just a line of cars going in about a mile long," said Sonksen. "Looked like they had police directing traffic and everything. So the shelters are filling up here."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the powerful hurricane remains a "catastrophic and life-threatening major Category 3 storm." Forecasters say the hurricane will likely restrengthen before it hits Florida. Nearly 6.3 million people were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm, which is expected to hit Sunday morning.

Nobody, including Sonksen, is underestimating how much damage Irma will bring. 

"I do remember vividly Hurricane Charley when it was just right on top of us and the house felt like it was shaking," said Sonksen. "I opened up the front door and my trees were blowing like crazy and about eight garbage cans were flying across. We won't have to worry about the storm surge, just the wind mainly that we have to be concerned about. You really don't know what these things are going to do-anything's possible I guess."

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