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Oakville native preparing for Hurricane Irma in Florida

Glara Yi-Powell says her neighbours are treating Hurricane Irma as an unprecedented threat

James Byrd, left, and Richard Clark load sandbags into a truck in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday as they prepare for Hurricane Irma.

the associated press / Sarasota Herald-Tribune

James Byrd, left, and Richard Clark load sandbags into a truck in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday as they prepare for Hurricane Irma.

Florida has endured dozens of powerful storms in recent years, but Glara Yi-Powell says her neighbours are treating Hurricane Irma as an unprecedented threat.

"I have never seen so many homes with hurricane shutters," says Yi-Powell, a 48-year-old optometrist from Oakville who now lives in Estero on Florida's west coast.

She and her husband have put up shutters, stocked up on a week's worth of food and water, and stored away some cash in preparation for Irma, which is breaking records as it heads westward by the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The Category 5 storm has reached speeds close to 300 kilometres per hour. Because of the uncertainty in forecasting and modelling hurricanes, weather experts do not know exactly when and where it will make landfall in the region, but it will most likely happen over the weekend.

Like her neighbours, Yi-Powell will have to decide quickly whether to wait out the storm in her home or get as far away as she can. As a precautionary measure, she and her husband have booked a hotel room in northern Florida — but given Irma's projected path, they might need to push on to Georgia to find safety.

"We're going to make a decision tonight," she told Metro on Wednesday.

On Twitter, Governor Rick Scott asked all residents to make preparations and issued an evacuation order for the Florida Keys.

Global Affairs Canada has advised against "all travel to the regions in the path of Hurrican Irma," warning of its strength and unpredicatability.

"We are advising all Canadians to be prepared, have a plan and, most importantly, follow the advice of local authorities," wrote Global Affairs spokesperson Brianne Maxwell in an email.

Some Canadians needed help to escape Irma's path. Air Canada, WestJet, and Air Transat sent down special flights on Wednesday to pick up travellers in Caribbean vacation spots and will pick up more people on Thursday.

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