Snapshots of pre-storm Orlando

Sentinel Staff Writer

At 6 p.m. today, much of Orlando was a ghost town, except for the Parramore neighborhood, where kids played basketball in the streets and neighbors stood talking on a few street corners.

Although every business was closed, except for a few convenience stores, the busiest place was the Citgo Quik Mart at 520 S. Orange Blossom Trail. Drivers were gassing up while others went inside to buy fresh-made pizza, subs or last-minute hurricane supplies.

"Business couldn't be better," said manager Sam Khan, who hoped to stay open as long as possible during the storm. "We sold lots of food. We got gas early in the morning. We probably sold six or seven thousand gallons."

Darlene Dennis, 37, of Orlando, stopped to make a vital purchase in between checking on relatives and driving home.

"I'm buying Lotto," Dennis said. "Just in case Frances messes us up, we'll have something to fall back on."

A few miles down the road and with a violent squall moving through the area, Orange County Sheriff's deputies coaxed a homeless couple hiding under an Interstate 4 underpass into accompanying them to a school shelter.

"We have nowhere to go," said Armando Avila, 40, a Seattle native who has been in Orlando four months with his girlfriend, Yolanda Canales. "They closed the shelter downtown. For now, I have no place to stay."

Downtown and South Orange Avenue were deserted when rain swept through the area at 6:30 p.m. A few men tried to escape the rain on bicycles.

One boarded-up business near Orlando Regional Medical Center had the phrase "Gone Golfing" spray painted on it in jest. At Lake Eola, the usually busy gathering spot was quiet. The lake fountain, however, still was spraying.

In College Park, insurance executive Lee Watson relocated his wife, two daughters and dog from their Greens Avenue home when an OUC power transformer went out at 4:10 p.m. For Watson, the move was about 300 yards across the 16th green of Dubsdread Golf Course -- to his mother's condo. He brought coolers filled with ice and sandbags to help brace against flooding on Par Avenue.

"OUC said they had crews in the area," Watson said. "So with the storm coming it made sense to come to my mother's condo."

Next door, Stan Piatek, a Westridge Middle School teacher, was hunkering down with his cats in his Par Avenue condo fixed to the television watching weather reports nonstop.

"It's a little tedious," Piatek said. "But I take it seriously. But I see Ivan is a Category 3, and it's right behind Frances. Thank goodness we have power."

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World