Florida family safe in Huntsville while husband still in Irma's - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Florida family safe in Huntsville while husband still in Irma's danger zone

The Neal family discusses their evacuation from Hurricane Irma. (Source: WAFF) The Neal family discusses their evacuation from Hurricane Irma. (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Each day, more evacuees from Florida and Georgia have ended up in north Alabama as they flee the projected path of Hurricane Irma. The hearts and minds of one family are with someone still in the danger zone.

Nancy Neal and her three children fled Clearwater, Florida when Hurricane Irma's projected path did not include a direct hit there. That has changed. Neal's husband, Matt, is still there.

"All of me wishes he was here," Neal said on Saturday while unable to hold back tears.

Introduced to her by his now-stepdaughter, 20-year-old Ashley, he is the father of 10-year-old Tucker and 9-year-old Anna Marie. They, along with their dog, Banjo, and cat, Charlie, are out of harm's way. But he stayed in Florida, as he has done before as an arborist, to help the recovery effort and to be with his elderly mother.

"I feel guilty for leaving him, but I wanted to make sure my kids were safe. But you still...you still feel guilty. He's going to stay safe because I know he loves these kids," Neal said.

They made a 24-hour journey, not knowing the destination would be north Alabama, sleeping in their truck along the way until they found a room at the Sleep Inn in Huntsville. They've also found something else here.

"A lot of good people," Neal said.

The truck broke down in the hotel parking lot. A couple of men from Athens learned they needed a hand, came to the hotel and fixed the truck.

"I was just feeling helpless again and lost again. And having people just come to support other people, it's just amazing," Neal said.

She said there is comfort in knowing her children are safe, but the uncertainty lingering back home will haunt her until she knows her husband is safe too.

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