Florida evacuees staying with family, friends in Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, SD With millions of people under mandatory evacuations in Florida and other areas along the Southeast coast, flights and freeways are packed.

More than 2,000 flights in and out of Florida have already been canceled as evacuees head all over the country.

People trying to grab some of the final flights out of Florida will head wherever than can to get out of Irma’s path, but for those who have family or friends in South Dakota, the Sioux Falls Regional Airport was actually their first and best option.

“Because my family is here,” Naples resident Davianna Alleman said. “And I was pretty darn sure that Irma’s not going to follow me up here.”

Alleman has lived in Naples Florida for more than 26 years.

“I've never planned on evacuating before and it was only because my son sounded so desperate he was like mom you've got to get up here, you're not safe, and I thought for his sake I’ll come up, but now I’m glad I did,” she said.

She left before the massive evacuation traffic jam hit.

“I did get out very early, because when my son talked about leaving, I thought well if I go and the traffic is going to be bad like it is right now, I’ll never get out and I won't have enough gas,” Alleman said.

“It takes about 17 hours to get out of Florida right now, it’s just stopped, everyone is trying to get out,” Josh and Jake Eichacker said.

The Eichacker brothers are originally from Sioux Falls but now attend Miami Dade College.

“Earlier this week they canceled Thursday through Friday classes and then yesterday they suspended them indefinitely, so whenever this all passes over then they'll start classes again, we don't know when it will start,” Jake Eichacker said.

Like many evacuees, they are worried about what they'll find when they return to Florida.

“We actually have cameras set up inside our house so we can see what happens to it,” Eichacker said.

“I am very worried about my house, it has been through Andrew and Charlie and Wilma, the big ones that hit,” Alleman said.

But for now, these Florida Evacuees in Sioux Falls are just enjoying time with their loved ones.

“I've got my health, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my credit cards--what else does a girl need?” Alleman said.

While some people booked round trip tickets with the hope of returning home sometime next week, others have a one way ticket so they can stay with family as long as they may need to.

When it comes to booking and rearranging these last minute flights for evacuees and travelers who were hoping to go to Florida this week, the Sioux Falls Airport says many airlines are very accommodating.
"When there is a major weather event, the airlines are pretty quick to allow people to change their reservations with no fee," Dan Letellier