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Long Island

Irma has former Long Islanders in Florida pondering their options

Volunteers Bob Rathbone, of Flushing Meadows, Queens, and

Volunteers Bob Rathbone, of Flushing Meadows, Queens, and Susan duBourg, of Glen Head, load supplies on to a Red Cross vehicle at the organization's office in Mineola on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The pair will drive the vehicle down to Florida, to help in relief efforts after Hurricane Irma. Photo Credit: American Red Cross / Desiree Ramos Reiner

Hurricane Irma has persuaded one former Long Islander to at least consider leaving her longtime Florida home.

“To tell you the truth, I really don’t want to live here anymore; I bet a lot of people are thinking the same way I am,” said Adele Laufer, 63, of Citrus Park, near Tampa.

“Arizona, ‘Here I come.’ I just want to go to a place that doesn’t have too many natural disasters,” said the Deer Park native.

Thankfully, the home she and her husband bought in the late 1980s was almost entirely unscathed because Irma unexpectedly veered east.

Still, “It was a back and forth thing, so it was like really panicky for me,” she said, adding she was even more concerned for her son and 8-year-old grandson who live 25 miles away.

In contrast, neither the loss of power nor the prospect of contaminated water is deterring Ruth Tarlow, 55, who recently moved to Delray Beach in the east, or Ken Walles, 65, of Montauk, who last year bought a home near Naples in the west.

Tarlow, formerly of Melville, stressed how fortunate she is compared to other Floridians.

“I just keep saying ‘We’re so lucky, we’re so lucky, we’re so lucky,’ ” she said.

Her community is slowly getting back on its feet, she said, and a night with no power even had its charms, at least temporarily. “It was a little hot, but it was nice with the candles, it was very quiet, we went in the pool.”

As for returning north, she laughs, “No way, because you’ll be putting on sweaters, and I’m still going to be in 90 degree weather. It’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely the lifestyle that I want.”

Walles, president of the Long Island Hospitality and Leisure Association, also has no regrets, noting his mother could move back to the Florida home before hurricane season ends.

Not only did Irma not flood the house, but “I live in Montauk, and I went through three hurricanes in the last 20 years.”

Some Long Islanders’ experience with hardships is inspiring them to aid Floridians, including Steve Kopezna of Scoutmaster Troop 438 Bohemia/Oakdale.

“I know firsthand, we’re in danger of losing our home too, because of financial difficulties, I know how difficult it is.”

Hoping to encourage his Scouts to do more for their communities, he arranged for Island Harvest of Long Island, a nonprofit that donates food, to deliver supplies — from bottled water to cleaning supplies — Islanders drop off by early next week at the American Legion Post 1146 in Bohemia.

Similarly, Red Cross volunteers Susan duBourg of Glen Head, a 9/11 first responder, and Robert “Bob” Rathbone of Flushing Meadows, Queens, left Mineola on Wednesday, bound for Florida in an emergency response vehicle to deliver supplies.

Just as she did after superstorm Sandy in 2012, duBourg expects to again deliver meals and cleaning supplies.

“We never know when we go down what we’ll be needed for.”

With Chau Lam

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