SALT LAKE CITY — Utah native Alan Hansen was hunkered down with some of his employees at Texas Roadhouse in Bradenton as Hurricane Irma raged up Florida's Gulf Coast on Sunday.
Hansen, who moved to Florida five years ago to run the restaurant, said the area was getting rain and gusty winds.
"It's definitely getting closer but steady winds are all that's happening now," he said late Sunday afternoon.
Bradenton, a city on the Manatee River about 45 miles south of Tampa, had wind gusts up to 54 mph Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. The city expected winds of more than 75 mph.
The power went out about 8 p.m. Hansen there was a lot of debris on the ground but no real threats at the moment. He said he was expecting the worst to hit around 1 a.m. Monday.
"It's pretty dark out here," he said. "We are standing in our outdoor patio watching the wind. We just saw the sky turn blue for a couple of seconds. Probably a transformer that blew."
Officials imposed a 24-hour curfew on the area starting at 3 p.m., and later issued a tornado warning through midnight and a flash flood watch until 4 p.m. Monday.
Hansen sent his family to Nashville, Tennessee, last Thursday to avoid the storm. He raised furniture off the floor in his home in case of flooding before heading to the restaurant. He and his employees had power most of the day. They watched football and closely monitored weather reports.
“The grocery stores around here ran out of water on Thursday and have been getting intermittent orders and so there has been a battle for water often. Luckily I was able to get 30 cases of water from our distributor early in the week,” he said.
Hansen said he has 130 employees, about 75 of whom have evacuated.
Irma made its presence known across South Florida, causing more than 2 million power outages and lashing major population centers with driving rain and roof-rattling wind, the Washington Post reported.
Several dozen Utahns, including 85 members of the American Red Cross, have made or were making their way to the southeast to help with relief efforts.
Rocky Mountain Power sent a team Sunday to help expected electricity outages. The crew of 30 journeyman, nine managers, a equipment mechanic and 12 contract journeymen will assist teams from Georgia Power. Each three-person crew will include a bucket truck, line truck and service pickup.
Widespread threats from Irma prompted Georgia's governor to declare an emergency Sunday for the entire state, where coastal Savannah was evacuated for the second time in less than a year and Atlanta faced its first-ever tropical storm warning, according to the Associated Press.
Much of eastern Alabama and coastal South Carolina were also under tropical storm warnings as Irma roared into Florida as a deadly Category 4 hurricane.
Six volunteers from Orem's Timpanogos Regional Hospital arrived in Florida before the weekend to help local hospitals when the hurricane passes through. They're assigned to Osceola Regional Hospital in Kissimmee.