Floridians Head to Bay Area to Wait Out Hurricane Irma

Thousands of people fled Florida before Hurricane Irma slammed into the state, and some chose the Bay Area as their escape.

At San Francisco International Airport early Friday, travelers — among the lucky few who were able to escape considering the number of flights out of South Florida that have been canceled — described a chaotic scene at Miami International Airport.

"The news was very scary, and also the people create a situation of like we were in a war," Pilar Capa, who spent the last day searching for a flight out of Miami, said after landing in San Francisco. "I mean, people fighting for water, lines for gas, no money."

Since Thursday, Gustavo De la Vega had been trying desperately to escape the imminent danger in South Florida. He and his wife were settled on a flight out of the area when the cancellation was announced. The couple was forced to get off the plane and wait with the rest of the evacuees seeking safety.

"It was insane," De la Vega said. "A lot of people sleeping in the gates because they were supposed to travel in the early morning."

De la Vega and his wife caught a break several hours later when they nabbed two seats on a flight bound for the Bay Area. 

"I got an angel," De la Vega said. "But for me it was really sad to see some people that doesn't get it, that doesn't have any place to stay so they move to a shelter or something like that because Irma's going to hit hard."

When the plane's wheels lifted off the ground, De la Vega admittedly said it was an overwhelming experience.

"Big boys also cry, so I just start to cry as a baby when we took off," he said.

De la Vega, who is now staying with his sister in Oakland, was glued to his social media accounts Saturday, keeping tabs on loved ones back in South Florida.

"I'm following some friends that decided to stay in Miami...in areas that the evacuation was not mandatory," he said. "They are showing some videos, and it's a windy time there."

Diana Cortes spent Friday fighting to fly her 98-year-old father and mother out of South Florida.

"I found this ticket for like 200-plus dollars American and I was like 'Oh my God, I’m going get this now,'" she said.

Cortes was worried that a lack of power and air conditioning would plague her parents after the hurricane passed, but she managed to get them safely to the West Coast.

Many of those who landed in San Francisco on Friday said they are confident that their homes will withstand Irma, but they are concerned about the possibility of lengthy power outages and fixing damaged infastructure.

"[The hurricane] will change the whole scape of Florida for sure," South Florida resident Josh Mattui said.

One woman told NBC Bay Area that she decided to come to San Francisco to stay with her son and his wife. She lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and is afraid of what Irma, which has re-strengthened from a Category 4 storm to Category 5 storm, will do to her home in Palmetto Bay.

NBC Bay Area's Ian Cull contributed to this report.

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