Moncton native Stephen LeBlanc has left his Seminole County home near Tampa to seek higher ground as Hurricane Irma lashes out at the Florida peninsula.

Experts are now predicting storm surges in the area of up to three-metres as Irma turns its eye, whipping winds over the state.

“Originally we were thinking it was going to be more of a wind event than a rain event, and it turns out the cone we were just barely in at first is now pointed straighten at us,” LeBlanc says. “It's going to be a direct impact.”

He originally planned to stay in Seminole County and wait the storm out. He stocked his house with 50 gallons of bottled water, covered windows, and prepared emergency kits and backup generators.

Now, driven away by the threat of flooding, he’s seeking refuge with friends further up the Florida coast.

“You can hide from wind, but you have to run from water, the flooding, if it comes the way it's supposed to, it will be nine, maybe fifteen feet of water where I’m standing,” he says.

Moncton Fire Platoon Chief, Brian Gaudet is one of the many people who managed to fly out of Florida Friday, after spending the week in Ocala, just north of Orlando.

Both men say people weren't panicking, but they were certainly preparing for the worst.

“We found most of the refilling stations were empty, they had bags over the gas pumps and stuff like that, so gasoline was very, very scarce, the few gas stations we found that still had gas had long, long lineups,” Gaudet says.

Gaudet also says traffic leading out of Orlando was virtually at a standstill and many stores were running low on bottled water.

“Hotels were turning people away, so I assume that some folks were flocking to the airport area in hopes they could get an early flight,” he says.

The National Hurricane Center says Irma is expected to strengthen again and remain a powerful hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida, Sunday.

The hurricane is expected to slam the Florida Keys, Sunday morning, before driving up the state's southwest coast by the afternoon.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.