Returning evacuees endure long trips home

Image 1 of 4

It has been a long ride home for Floridians who evacuated ahead of Hurricane Irma.

With 6 million people who fled, it was the largest movement of people in American history.

One thing Jay Hammond knows for sure is their home won't look the same as when they left.

"My siding is stripped off, but the house is still standing," he said.

Jay and his wife are on their way back from Citrus County and are the lucky ones in their Florida Keys neighborhood that was crushed by Hurricane Irma.

"The whole row of houses next to my houses was gone," said Hammond. "They were low houses, so I guess they got it by the surge."

They were among the thousands of homeward bound evacuees taking a pit stop in Wesley Chapel.

It took them three stations to find gas, which is why the Tran family brought the gas with them back and forth.

"We stayed in Atlanta with some of my uncle's friends," said Andy Tran, of Tampa. "They aren't sure what they will find when their family caravan gets back."

It caps off a week of nervousness, which involved considerations like will insurance cover me? Will my home be destroyed? Will the life I know still be there when I get back?

"[I am] extremely relieved," said Rebecca Henderson of Fort Myers. "We are all alive and good. We aren't sure what we are going back to. But we are all alive and that's all that matters."

Returning evacuees stopped in Wesley Chapel to use the facilities, vending machine or to give their pets breathers.

Now, people like Eva Kuba are the ones who need a breather.

"Our homes didn't get flooded, so we are very happy and lucky."

She was on her way back from Gainesville to Treasure Island. She is returning to her home of 26 years, the one she raised her kids in.

"I saved the pictures, that's all I could do," she said. "You thought it would be gone."