FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – With Hurricane Matthew out at sea and aimed well north of this city known for parties, a big one broke out Thursday across the street from waves churned up by the storm.
A huge crowd spent the day tossing back beers and singing along with a guitar player at the Elbo Room, situated on a corner in the heart of an area that’s typically overrun by college students during spring break.
A smaller crowd partied at another bar one block over. And just up the street, Kim Siegel pranced like a gazelle atop a squat beachside wall as a friend shot videos.
“I’m happy to have a breeze. We haven’t had one in months,” she said.
Although Fort Lauderdale was initially in Matthew’s crosshairs, forecasters said the hurricane didn’t move inland as far south as first expected. So rather than hunkering down in her home just off the coast, Melody Fortunato took her German shepherd for an afternoon walk. She also spent a few hours watching TV and cleaning out files on her two computers.
“I’m just doing things … you don’t normally do,” she said.
Fort Lauderdale residents took all the necessary precautions for Matthew, stripping store shelves clean of bottled water and bread and moving luxury yachts while the storm was still days away. A luxury Bentley was nestled safely beside Toyotas and Jeeps in the vault-like parking garage of a resort hotel.
But the worst never came. So Michael Levi and a buddy went swimming in the ocean, bobbing down the beach in foamy white spray kicked up by Matthew.
“It’s not the brightest idea in the world, but it’s fun,” said Levi of Pembroke Pines, Florida. “A lot of people are afraid to look at this, and actually it’s quite beautiful. It’s quite amazing. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime type thing.”
The mood wasn’t as bright a few miles inland at a huge shelter set up in two schools where officials said more than 800 people sought refuge as the storm bore down on the road. Brad Witt, who normally lives in a tent and works as a day laborer, feared staying outside during Matthew.
“I came here to ride out the storm,” he said.
Adam Bator went to the beach to ride the waves. Along with about a half-dozen others, Bator strapped a board to his feet and spent the morning in the ocean being pulled along by a kite that was puffed out by Matthew’s wind.
“It’s a major adrenaline rush,” he said. “It’s surfing times 10.”