Florida Gators fans watch game in Utah while keeping eye on Hurricane Idalia damage

Aug 31, 2023, 10:18 PM | Updated: Sep 1, 2023, 6:06 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Florida Gators fans who trekked all the way to Utah from Florida, flew out as Hurricane Idalia moved into their home state. That meant some fans were likely watching both the scoreboard and news updates Thursday, rooting for their team while knowing fellow Floridians were cleaning up storm damage.

At the first tailgate of the season, in a sea of red stood a spot of blue at one of the tailgate parties.

Michael Handlon was wearing a Florida Gators shirt to support his freshman son, who just started at the University of Florida.

“Yeah, he moved down two weeks ago. Two Fridays ago,” Michael said. His wife, Namrata Handlon, was wearing a red Ute shirt to support their daughter, who attends the University of Utah.

As their children’s two college football teams played each other, mom and dad had reason to be a little nervous ahead of the game — mainly because of the fact that their son was about to go through his first hurricane.

“We got a big checklist from the school, so I was very stressed,” Namrata said.

They were worried that Hurricane Idalia would take down cell service and leave them without a way to get updates.

“We were definitely concerned,” Michael said. “Yeah, we told him to hunker down.”

Michael’s family all lives down in Florida as well.

“They went through a hurricane last year, Hurricane Ian. And actually, both my parents lost their home,” he explained.

As they watched weather updates on Idalia, Gavin Elliot watched his flight status.

“All the flights out of Florida had to redirect because of the hurricane,” he said. Gavin, also sporting a blue Gators shirt, flew from his home in Fort Lauderdale into Utah to attend the game. After experiencing delays, his flight finally landed in the Beehive State at 2 a.m. Thursday.

He made it just in time to have a good time, squeezing in a hike before hitting up the game. Gavin said his area of Florida wasn’t hit by Hurricane Idalia, but he’s been seeing the damage reported in other places.

“Up in Jacksonville area, it’s devastated them,” he said. “This is our state… it’s terrible. It really is.”

The Handlons say they heard from their son before the game, that all was okay. Some trees toppled over, they said, but other than that the hurricane only brought a ton of rain. Their son actually slept through the worst of it without any issues.

“Luckily it wasn’t such a big storm and Gainesville is a little bit inland, so they didn’t get quite the hurricane pressure that the other places got,” Michael said.

After seeing how Hurricane Idalia played out, everyone hoped a different force would take the field by storm Thursday night.

“I hope we crush Utah to be honest,” Gavin said, with a laugh.

“I secretly want Utah to win, but don’t tell my son that,” Michael joked. “I would like to see them get some revenge. But yeah, we’ll be celebrating, we’ll see. Either way, we’re good.”

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Florida Gators fans watch game in Utah while keeping eye on Hurricane Idalia damage