WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — Rosa Linda Román and her family poured their dreams into their new home: a boat docked in West Palm Beach, Florida.
But this week, they started seeing frightening reports about deadly Hurricane Matthew.
“The boat is in direct path of the hurricane at this point. If it hits as the model predicts, we will not have a home anymore,” Román said.
When the possible path of the storm became clear the family attempted to find a marina further inland, but the ones that could handle a boat the size of theirs already were full.
With Hurricane Matthew projected to swipe Florida as a Category 4 storm, many coastal residents like Román have fled their homes.
More than 2 million people have been urged to flee in parts of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia as a state of emergency has been declared in the three states.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall early Friday. The storm has already killed more than 100 people in Caribbean countries
Learning what matters
Like many evacuees, Román doesn’t know if her family will have a home to return to after the hurricane.
Three months ago, Román, her husband and their three kids moved from New Mexico into a sailing catamaran in Palm Beach, Florida. They prepped their boat, called Dawn Treader, for a journey to the Bahamas in December.
But those plans feel very distant now.
“It’s scary,” said Ahava Goldfein, Román’s 11-year-old daughter. She packed her belongings and helped secure the boat with her parents, to prevent parts from becoming flying projectiles during the storm.
“My dad’s been saying: ‘Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,’ she said. “I wanted a plan. Let’s say it hits with the speed that they say it’s at. What would we do?”
Ahava and her family crammed what they could into their minivan and said farewell to their home. Román posted a Facebook video with tears in her eyes as the family made last-minute preparations.
They drove across the state to Fort Myers on Wednesday night, away from the storm.
“You learn what’s important really fast,” Román said, after her family checked into a hotel room. “My kids are getting an early education on what matters. What matters is what’s in this hotel room right now.”
Rush to stores and roads
As the storm neared Florida, long lines snaked in front of gas stations. Cars crammed highways. Miami officials lifted all tolls on its expressways to aid the exodus.
Shoppers waited in front of a Publix store in Miami Shores, trying to stock up on water, canned foods and batteries. Residents also lamented price increases on high-demand items, although Florida law prohibits price gouging in essentials such as food, water and gas.
“They’re expensive, especially, I mean, during a hurricane,” said Caroline Levy told CNN affiliate WSVN, about the price of gas. “All kinds of families should have access to get what they need, and it makes it more difficult for everybody.”
Evacuees scrambled to find hotels. Many were completely booked.
Karen Kelly said her suitcase is packed, but she doesn’t plan to leave Tybee Island, Georgia, despite an evacuation order.
“It’s scary, and I didn’t sleep last night, you know, (thinking) do you do this? Or do you do this?” she told CNN’s Sara Ganim.
The bed and breakfast owner said she hopes to stay on the island in case someone needs her help after the storm hits.
“My No. 1 concern is to make sure that the two- and four-legged creatures on Tybee have somebody here to feed them,” she said.
Preparing for a ‘hurricane party’
In Daytona Beach, Florida, the boardwalk was desolate Thursday as tourists and business owners alike took cover.
But not everyone heeded calls to evacuate.
Daniel Myara barricaded his business, Cruisin’ Cafe, with plywood and nails as the storm approached.
He’s not going anywhere. Myara, who’s lived in the city for 25 years, said he’s prepared with alcohol and beer.
And the new makeshift advertisement sprayed on the wood boards covering his restaurant’s windows show it.
“Open,” it reads. “Honk for hurricane party inside.”
Myara has spent three days securing his fortress. And plenty of money.
“One thing I forgot to do, I should have bought stock in Lowe’s and Home Depot,” he said. “That would have been nice. ”
Playing it by ear
In Charleston, South Carolina, Cheryl Quinn told CNN’s Stephanie Elam she was planning to hunker down. She and her husband were fine a year ago when Charleston endured heavy rain after a brush with a big storm.
“It was kind of a party down here. I hate to say that,” because storms can be scary, she added.
Still, Quinn has a hotel reservation just in case.
“We’re kind of just playing it by ear.”
Officials cautioned residents of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia not to wait to decide whether they should stay or go.
“This is serious. … We have to prepare for a direct hit. So again, if you need to evacuate and you haven’t, evacuate,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday. “This storm will kill you. Time is running out.”