Former NewsChannel 9 reporter prepares for Hurricane Irma in Fort Myers

Rachel Polansky and her husband are spending the weekend in her newsroom

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA (WSYR-TV) - The last line of information for families stuck in Florida could be their local news teams with reporters, producers, and photographers working around the clock to share updates for fearful neighbors.

Some of the latest models of Hurricane Irma's path show it shifting toward the home of former Central New York reporter Rachel Polansky, who now works at television station WBBH in Fort Myers.

"I have a first aid kit, I have a flash light, bug spray, baby wipes," Polansky says as she scans the contents of an emergency kit. "My shifts are 2a.m.-2p.m. Depending how bad the storm gets, our station is being very kind and they are allowing pets and family members to stay at the station."

By Saturday afternoon, she was sleeping on an air mattress next to a desk in the quiet sales department of the station, resting before her next extended shift.

Her colleagues will be providing non-stop coverage of the storm, around-the-clock, all weekend.

"As much as I might be feeling some anxiety inside, I'm really glad that I am here and I'm glad that I'll be with the community, reporting to them everything that I know, when I know it," Polansky adds.

Her dog, Willow, is one of many pets perched behind the scenes as reporters, producers, and meteorologists camp out at work, where there are storm resistant windows.

Her husband, Dominic Tricase, is there too. They met while working together at WSYR-TV Newschannel 9 in East Syracuse.

The couple knows their Florida home is vulnerable. Tricase spent the week installing reinforcements like metal storm shutters, something he'd never seen growing up in North Syracuse.

"We've had these in our garage since we moved in about a year ago and never knew what they were," Tricase recalls. "My wife actually said, 'What are those? Should we get rid of them?'. I said, 'Well, let's keep them around just in case we do need them for some reason.'"

They had enough supplies to cover two windows. Stocks of plywood and storm shutters had vanished from local stores by the time they realized they'd need more.

"It's actually made me miss the snow a bit. With snow storms, you know it's coming. You know what to expect. With a storm like this, there is a lot of uncertainty," Tricase says.

The native New Yorkers are getting an emergency course in life on the Florida coastline.

Polansky researched hurricanes like an investigative story, learning about the dangers of flying patio furniture, gathering tips for securing a garage door, and other general advice from experienced neighbors.

The chairs and tables that once surrounded her pool are packed up in the garage now.

The family car is parked within inches of the garage door, with a piece of wood wedged into the gap for support against a powerful gust of wind.

Now they wait, wondering what they'll come home to when the hurricane completes its course.

"It's been really nice to hear from all my friends and family in Central New York who are worried about me," Tricase says. "I've gotten so many calls and texts from people sending me their love and prayers."

With Sunday's arrival, the New York transplants are bracing for the unknown in their home away from home.


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