Former Goulburn girl battens down hatches against Hurricane Irma

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Hurricane Irma is pulling the ocean away from shorelines

Weather reporters front up to Hurricane Irma

Update 12 noon Tuesday:

Sharyn Peters’ mother, Maureen Van Bilsen of Goulburn reports that her daughter and family are safe. 

Hurricane Irma blew a few shingles off their Palm Beach home’s roof and knocked out power and internet.

“They are all well and healthy,” Mrs Van Bilsen told The Post.

She said as a mother she was beside herself with worry and was extremely relieved her daughter, husband Kevin, daughter Charleigh, 16, and Rory, 14, were unhurt.

“There was nothing I could do but pray they were okay,” she told The Post.

Sharyn has lived in Florida since the age of 22 when she went travelling and met her husband.  

They built their brick home not far from the beach to hurricane specifications and ensured they were always prepared.

“She’s been through a few hurricanes now and said they were scary...All you can do is batten down the shutters, stock up on water and batteries and ride it out,” Mrs Van Bilsen said.

Monday 11am

Former Goulburn woman Sharyn Peters and her family have been riding out Hurricane Irma as it bears down on Florida. On Sunday morning, winds were reported at 130 miles per hour and the Peters family was hurriedly making preparations to ride out the storm.

Mrs Peters lives on the west coast of Florida at Palm Beach Gardens. She attended Marian College, Goulburn from 1980 to 1985 and later studied interior design at the Art Institute of Interior Design at Fort Lauderdale. She is the daughter of Maureen and the late Hans Van Bilsen.

She shared some of her experiences on Facebook, which she has authorised The Goulburn Post to use.

8:20 Sunday morning:

Irma is making landfall in Key West as a CAT 4 Hurricane. Eyeball extends 80 miles out with 130mph winds. Since last night we have been experiencing the rain bands. Mostly like a windy (20mph) rainy day with spells of calmness in between.

Currently this morning the gusts are picking up to approx 40-60 mph. Because we are on the north east side of the hurricane there have been some tornado watch warnings. This comes through my phone as a blaring alarm. Kevin has gone to check on the boats.

Irma is expected to make a second land fall as a Category 3 on he coast of Florida - almost directly opposite us. This storm is very big! It reaches 200 miles from the centre, so 400 miles in diameter. It's amazing that the eye is in Key West and people an hour north of us are experiencing flooding and tornadoes! The winds will likely get stronger for us this evening/tonight - up to 80/ 90 mph. We can handle this. Praying for people who didn’t evacuate in Key West and for everyone on the West Coast.

Sharyn Peters, nee Van Bilsen.

Sharyn Peters, nee Van Bilsen.

11.49 Saturday, September 9:

For people down under, Irma has dropped to a category 3 as it passes over Cuba. It still has not made its predicted turn north yet......which still puts all of Florida in its possible path. The cone of prediction is not over us in Palm Beach anymore but it easily could shift. Not only that but the storm is so wide so the hurricane force winds extend out over 100 miles.

As of now it is expected to intensify again to a category 4 as it goes over extremely warm water just south of the key west. Again at the moment it is expected to make landfall around Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida. On the east coast (where we are) we are still expecting winds mostly around 75mph with higher gusts.

Worse conditions will not be felt until Sunday 8pm-12am. This is a much better scenario for us than it was a couple of days ago! There is a 3pm curfew for today for our area. We have left just a couple of shutters off at the back of our house just so the sunshine can come in (hate how dark it is once all the shutters are up). We will put the rest up this evening. Feeling safe and well prepared. Our thoughts are with those on the west coast! 

It has been a crazy game of hide and seek. Some people left midweek to west Florida, central Florida and north Florida. At various times the last couple of days the eye has moved to directly pass all of those places, causing people to evacuate again...crazy!

8:06 FRIDAY:

It's Friday night. Supermarkets and gas stations are closing. Charleigh (daughter) is working at a local chicken joint until they run out of food. Everyone around seems very well prepared.

Accordingly to the models the eye will be even further west than first expected. We are still in the cone but only just. But as of now we are dodging a bullet. As for the west coast of Florida, that is a different story. Maybe a little less prepared than us as they thought the east coast was the target. We wish them well. Of course this could change again.

It is very unpredictable. It could wobble more one way or the other. When it finally turns we will know more. However the whole state - east to west - north to south will be affected in some way. We will know a more accurate track after it turns north. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

11:41PM FRIDAY:

For the Aussies. We are just above Miami (about 80 miles), near the coast but not in the mandatory evacuation area. Our house is mostly dark now because of the shutters. We left a few off to let the sunshine in. We are mostly prepared just some yard things to move into the garage or house.

Tropical Storm winds will start Saturday. Chances are we could lose power then. It already just glitches! Hurricane force winds will great us Sunday morning and continue throughout the day getting stronger. The latest is in our favour. It is heading more to the west, so we will be further from the centre!

THURSDAY 4:33PM

For family and friends. We have decided to bunker down and ride out Irma. The cars are full of gas. We have food and water. Kevin is busy prepping boats and houses. We will put our shutters up this evening (when it's cooler).

It is expected to be a category 4 (130-150mph) as it passes us on Sunday. Hurricane tracking models suggest it could go just east or west of us, possibly making landfall south of us near Miami, hence it will lose strength. It is a very big hurricane.

The highest winds are concentrated around the eye wall. The winds outside of that could be a lot less - more like 75mph. The traffic heading north is very congested. The Keys and parts of Miami under mandatory evacuation. That’s a lot of people leaving on roads that run north - essentially only two to three roads. Travel is taking more than double the time it usually takes.

Gas (petrol) is low and none existent in some places, hence our decision to stay. Nothing worse than being stranded somewhere in a car that doesn't move. Hotels all the way into the state of Georgia were full or almost full on Tuesday. We are well prepared and feel safe in our house. We will keep you updated as much as possible. We do tend to lose power early on, so no news is good news!