DAYTONA BEACH - Alba Fernandez was ordered out of her beachside home by a worried son, but at the moment they're having a spat. Fernandez, 74, stood at the rear of an Isuzu Rodeo truck, puzzling over how to fit two bashful dogs, a parakeet and his 4-foot tall and 3-foot wide cage inside.
It was a matter of life and death.
"I don't want to traumatize him," Fernandez said of the 35-year-old bird. "If I put him in a tiny little cage he might die on me."
At least three hurricanes have come and gone by in the time she's lived in the small white house with the little red door. Each time, she said the lights didn't even go out. This time is different. She's a little older and her daughter-in-law called Wednesday night and insisted she come stay with them in Seminole County.
"Ma, it's not going to fit," said her son David Kohn, 50, of Geneva.
"Can you try?" Fernandez said.
"This is not going to fit," he said again, now holding the cage up to the truck with his son.
"Try," she said, "try."
The bird's cage had to stay behind.
Now under a mandatory evacuation order, communities on barrier islands were grappling with similar questions early Thursday as Hurricane Matthew barreled toward Florida's east coast.
The pre-hurricane scene varied from house to house, street to street, in beachside neighborhoods immediately north and south of International Speedway Boulevard. Few properties were boarded up. Garbage cans stood at the edges of many curbs.
Joe Motte, 67, will take his chances and stay. He moved here in April from Massachusetts.
"I wish I had shutters for the windows and a generator. I took everything out of the yard and picked up trash," said Motte, who lives on Lenox Avenue. "They (the trash collector) didn't come today, but they should've, I think."
Some locals are staying because they say they simply can't afford to travel.
"I don't have gas money," said Annette Smith, 55, of Daytona Beach. "I have a lot of medical stuff I'd have to take. There's no way I can get out of Volusia County."
Smith has a medical condition that she says requires her to sleep with her oxygen tank. She cares for a 3-year-old granddaughter whose mother, she says, is "drugged out." She rents in a flood zone about a half-mile from the Halifax River.
"My biggest concern is trees," she said. "We had a tree come down in (the) back about three months ago."
Smith said she lived through Hurricane Charley in Deltona in 2004, so she knows the threat is real. Her most immediate hope is to find someone who will lend her a generator to keep her medical equipment operating when the power goes out.
Michelle Ballve and Ron Luznar, both 46, were drilling screws into corrugated metal shutters.
"It's been a long time since we've had to do it," said Ballve, who bought the house 12 years ago. "The last time we got seriously hit was 2004. We've had some minor ones come through but not a (Category) 4 that's going to skirt. "
They usually come out all right, storm surge and all, she said because the street has good drainage. Still, several trees surround the house. There was no time to have them trimmed.
"We've got plenty of insurance," Ballve said, "so if anything does happen we'll be fine."
- Staff writer Casmira Harrison contributed to this report.