KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- "I'm just really apprehensive that we're going to run out of gas on our way home," said South Florida evacuee Katherine Byers.
Katherine, her husband Patrick, their four boys and their two dogs headed north once they heard the historic Hurricane Irma would hit South Florida. However, they didn't have a place to stay until a friend they haven't talked to in 26 years said they could help.
"She's been great, she's a true friend," said Patrick Byers. "We will never forget this. She will always be close to us for opening her home to us."
It turns out finding a place to stay outside of Florida was just the first hurdle they faced on their journey to find safety—driving 900 miles to get home was the next. Patrick said he plans to top off his gas tank whenever he can along the way, but he's taking his preparations a step further.
"Before heading back, I wanted to make sure we had five-gallon gas cans in case there was a shortage going back, which will probably happen," he said.
With the amount of evacuees itching to get back to their homes in Florida, the Byers family said they expect the roads to be flooded with cars.
"The shortage and panic just to get out is still there on the way to get back because people are still buying up all the gas, all the food, and all the water because once we get back all the grocery stores might still be empty," said Patrick.
In a time of firsts for the Byers, including the first time evacuating the state for a hurricane and celebrating an anniversary away from home, they're grateful for their safety so far.
"It's such a blessing to know that we all made it out okay," said Katherine Byers. "We didn't get stranded on the road, we didn't get caught in the storm, we didn't get caught in winds. It's just such a blessing."
DISCLAIMER: The gas cans placed in the trunk of the car in this story were empty at the time of the story. It is not recommended to keep full gas tanks inside your vehicle.