GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the state of Florida as early as this weekend, and members of the Florida football team are trying to make sure their families are prepared.
All told, 92 players are from Florida and more than 30 are from South Florida, which could experience the full impact of the storm as early as Sunday morning.
“There’s a lot of us from down that way,” senior wide receiver Brandon Powell, who is from Deerfield Beach, said after practice on Tuesday. “Around this time, you just check to make sure everybody, their people, are good.”
Irma has grown into a Category 5 storm with sustained winds maxing out at about 185 mph, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center on Wednesday. According to the hurricane center, which is based in Miami, Irma is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
Gainesville could feel Irma’s wrath as early as Sunday night.
“You talk to those guys to make sure that their family is safe, that they’ve reached out and we’re reaching out to make sure all families are safe,” said defensive backs coach Corey Bell, who is from Miami. “Like I said, it’s just one of those things. It seems like yearly that that occurs. You just try to prepare for it the best you can.”
Powell said his family is prepared and has been through the hurricane experience before. He said he talked to his grandmother ,who has her generator and water ready to go.
“If I got to send something back home to help her out, I will,” Powell said. “But my family, we’ve been through hurricanes before. There’s not too much worry about it.”
Defensive lineman Khairi Clark, who is from Hollywood, said he talked with his mom who said she expects to be OK.
“She’s been through hurricanes before in her lifetime, so she knows what to do to cope and all that,” Clark said. “If she has to go somewhere else, she will.”
For the time being, though, the Gators are trying to focus on football and their home opener against Northern Colorado on Saturday. Florida announced Wednesday that the game will be moved up to a noon kickoff instead of its originally scheduled start of 7:30 p.m.
Hurricanes and severe weather previously have impacted the Florida football season. Last season, the Gators had to reschedule their game with LSU due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew. They also had their season opener in 2004 against Middle Tennessee State rescheduled for their bye week because of Hurricane Frances.
“You’ve got to be ready,” Powell said. “You see what we’re practicing in. We’re just ready for anything at this point.”
Bell added: “Those things back home have been taken care of. Now, they’re just waiting it out like we all are. Now, it’s just being where my feet are, here with the guys preparing them to go to battle on Saturday.”
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