September 11, 2017 7:17 am
Updated: September 11, 2017 2:09 pm

Dawna Friesen: Driving into Tropical Storm Irma on a desolate interstate

ABOVE: Hurricane Irma pounded heavily populated areas of Florida on Monday as it carved through the state with high winds, storm surges and torrential rains that left millions without power, ripped roofs off homes and flooded city streets.

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The drive into Florida from Georgia on Sunday night, along with an almost deserted interstate, was an odd experience in the wake of Tropical Storm Irma.

By that point all of the Florida airports were shut down, so cameraman Kurt Brownridge and I travelled by road into the hurricane zone. By the time we crossed the state border, the rain and wind had picked up and the hurricane warning kept beeping on the radio.

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LIVE UPDATES: Tracking Hurricane Irma’s path

The Welcome Centre for tourists at the border – which I’m sure is usually warm and friendly – was dark and deserted. The gas stations were closed, which became a bit of a worry until we eventually found one that didn’t have every pump wrapped in plastic to shield it from the wind and rain.

There’s nothing like driving into a storm to make you feel dwarfed by the power of nature. It’s a monster that simply cannot be defied or controlled, and our attempts to harness nature seem feeble in comparison. All we can do is be thankful to find a safe place to hunker down and wait to see what is unleashed.

Our safe place is a concrete-built hotel in Lake City, which is up in the north of Florida. There’s a hurricane warning in effect here too and the wind is howling and whipping the rain at my window. The wind is going to pick up overnight as the hurricane moves north. But we’re not feeling the full force of what it must have been like when this storm first made landfall. We are fortunate to be safe and even had the power come back on!

READ MORE: Irma weakens to tropical storm, still lashes Florida with wind and rain

We know Florida has a special place in the hearts of thousands of Canadians. First thing Monday we’re going to see how much farther south we can drive, and with the help of our intrepid teams in Miami and Tampa, tell the story of this storm and the damage it has done, especially to the southern most parts of this state.

So look for me on Global National from Florida on Monday evening.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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