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Ex-Long Islanders plan to weather Hurricane Irma in Florida

On Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, Floridians were flying into Long Island MacArthur Airport to evacuate from the path of Hurricane Irma, which has been devastating Caribbean islands.  (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

Some former Long Islanders are too frail to leave Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, some only relent under pressure, and some cite highly individual reasons for staying.

Mary Manzi, 63, of Oakdale, who has three sisters who live on Florida’s west coast, is terrified the one who lives in Naples will not survive Irma if she goes without dialysis for too long.

“This just might do her in,” she said, before flying from MacArthur Airport to Baltimore to visit a grandson.

Manzi hopes this sister will join forces at a shelter with a second sister, who lives in Bonita Springs, and who cares for her “mentally and physically challenged” 27-year-old twin sons.

A third sister, who lives in Osprey, on the Intracoastal Waterway, will join Manzi in Baltimore.

However, “her husband is staying. He goes, ‘I don’t want to come back and everything’s gone,’ ” she said, while pointing out that the couple’s waterside home is especially vulnerable.

Mel Kitzes, 78, of West Palm Beach, resisted pleas by his wife and children to fly out before Irma, which has already killed 22 people on Caribbean islands, strikes Florida early Sunday.

“I think everyone should experience a hurricane,” he said at MacArthur. “The worst fear is if the roof comes down and you have a swimming pool in the house.”

Then his wife, Phyllis, 78, explained how she persuaded him to come stay with their friends in Jericho. “I said goodbye.”

The reasons a few travelers cited for thinking of hunkering down include a sense of civic duty — and a love of baseball mementos.

Stacey Blass, 32, juggling her 3-month-old son, Sami, as she arrived at MacArthur said she and her husband wanted to remain out of a sense of obligation to their Boynton Beach neighbors but felt their two young sons’ safety came first.

“We live in a community; it’s kind of wrong to leave the rest of the community to do the clean up for us,” she said, before her parents, who live in Floral Park, drove her to her in-laws’ home.

Securing plane tickets was arduous — her husband and older son could only get a flight to Chicago.

Anthony Favata, 52, of Plantation, Florida, who grew up in Deer Park, opted to stay to protect his baseball treasures.

“That’s the only thing I’m worried about, my sports memorabilia,” he said by telephone.

The gifts from his son, a Miami Marlins employee, have been carefully packed in plastic tubs, the hurricane shutters are down, and he and his wife have filled up their cars, and stockpiled water, food and snacks, including Ring Dings.

His sister, however, pressed them to fly out. “She did want me to come north. There wasn’t any way I was leaving,” he said, noting his “concrete block” house is fully insured.

Still, he admitted: “Basically everybody here is in a state of panic, pretty much.”

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