CHICAGO (CBS) — Time is ticking for travel between Chicago and Florida before Hurricane Irma hits the U.S.
Some of the last flights in and out of Florida were leaving Friday morning, as airlines have been getting ready to shut down operations ahead of the massive storm.
Airports across Florida have been overrun with travelers trying to get out before Irma hits, and last-minute tickets have come at a premium in some cases.
“It was very lucky to get a flight. They were going for $500 to $1000 to get out of Tampa Bay,” said Lee Mitchell after arriving at Midway International Airport.
Brittany Pelka had to cut her Florida vacation short by three days in order to get out ahead of the storm, but she was happy to be back in Chicago.
“At first, I thought it was going to be okay, but you could just see it on everyone’s faces that everyone was scared. Even people that have lived there for 40 years were really scared,” she said.
Mariah Gamble just moved to Miami two weeks ago to go to school, but was feeling fortunate to be back in Chicago on Friday.
“I had to evacuate, because of Hurricane Irma. She’s basically right in the path of where my apartment is,” she said.
Gamble could only catch a flight out by driving nearly 300 miles across Florida to Tampa. It was extremely slow-going and dramatic.
“I’ve seen people get out of their cars and fight people if they thought someone was butting them in line,” she said.
Gerry Winkler’s home is in Bonita Springs. He’s not exactly sure when or if he’ll be going home again.
“Hopefully I’ll have a home when I get back there,” he said.
While there is a mass exodus out of Florida, some families are still trying to go back to the Sunshine State. Kristen Capo had a very good reason for flying home to Tampa on Friday.
“Our kids are scared,” she said.
Karen Nasti, of Clearwater, Florida, had a ticket to Chicago on a previously scheduled flight, but her daughter’s family members couldn’t get tickets. So Nasti knows how she’ll be spending the next few days.
“Just praying for everybody,” she said.
In order to encourage people to get out of the storm’s path, Southwest and other airlines have been waiving change fees at dozens of airports in the Florida region.