When Hurricane Irma came barreling toward Florida, Rockford native Norma Lewis says her sons made the decision for her.
"Ma, we gotta get out of here," said Lewis.
But just getting out of the state, she says was a tough journey to make.
"We hadn't even changed our clothes or anything, oh, it was bad."
More than 24 hours in the car, the Lewis' and their sons trekked north to Rockford, braving the crowded interstates.
"Traffic was really bad, it was bumper to bumper, and a lot of times it didn't even move," said Lewis.
Sleeping in their cars along the way...
"With all the rooms you see, all these big hotels, you think they'll be a room, we got up the line and there were no rooms to be had," said Lewis.
...and snagging just enough fuel to get them safely to Rockford.
"There was a big sign that said no more gas..." said Lewis.
While it was longer trip than Lewis says she was expecting . It was worth it, just to be safe back in her hometown.
"I thought when we left, that we would just go far north and get rooms and stay there 'til it just blew over, but my son said no we're going to be out of here awhile, we want to be where we have relatives or friends," said Lewis.
Avoiding the fury...
"The winds were unbelievable, they just didn't stop," said Roscoe native Patrick Bautz, who rode out the storm at his condo in Punta Gorda, FL.
... and stress of riding out Hurricane Irma. A storm that left other families who stayed saying never again.
"We all agreed we wouldn't stay here and do it again, we would leave," said Bautz.
Lewis says their condo in Boyton Beach, FL, did not suffer any major damage during Hurricane Irma. They do not plan to return until power is restored