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Florida parents escape to Northeast Georgia to deliver baby
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Emmalee Jones holds her newborn baby Dawson on Thursday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. After finding themselves in the path of Hurricane Irma, the Jones family left Florida in hope of finding a medical facility that could take them in before Emmalee gave birth. - photo by David Barnes

With a baby due around the time Hurricane Irma was expected to hit Florida last week, Bradley and Emmalee Jones decided to evacuate their St. Petersburg home and travel to stay with her parents in Northeast Georgia.

They just didn’t know Irma would take the same route they did.

“I felt like she would never leave,” Emmalee Jones said Thursday. “She was like following us.”

Emmalee gave birth to a healthy son, Dawson Glenn Jones, at 8:22 p.m. Tuesday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. The baby weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces and was 21 1/4 inches long.

But the delivery was not without a little drama.

Concerned about safety, the couple left St. Petersburg at 1 a.m. Sept. 6 — four days before Irma would hit Florida.

“He’s active duty Coast Guard, and my doctors didn’t want me to have the possibility of being alone and going to into labor,” she said. “In case he were to be called back, I would have family here.”

They beat the onslaught of vehicles that would get on Interstate 75 in the days immediately before the storm hit Florida and made the trip to Emmalee’s parents’ home in Auburn in about eight and a half hours.

“We dodged most of the traffic,” Bradley said. “It was still hard because her being in the car was difficult at that point.”

Once settled with family, the couple looked for a hospital and felt good about the Braselton facility, which was also the closest hospital to her parents’ home.

“We didn’t even look at any other hospitals once we met the staff here,” Emmalee said. “I already felt like it was meant for us to be here.”

The couple went about 4 p.m. Monday into the hospital, where labor was induced. It was around that time that Tropical Storm Irma also made her presence known in Northeast Georgia.

“Originally, they thought it was it was going to track more toward South Carolina,” Bradley said. “We got to the hospital at 4 o’clock when the storm was just coming through, so we got here right in the midst of it.”

Emmalee said the timing was actually good.

“It ended up the power went out at my parents’ for about 24 hours, so it was a good thing we came here to be admitted because their power was out,” she said.

Dr. Jeff Ward, who delivered Dawson, said the hospital lost power from the storm and was operating on a generator for a while.

“But we were not hit by the storm as bad as they got hit (in Florida),” he said.

Even though Irma did come the same way they did in their evacuation, the couple said they believed they made the right decision to come to Georgia.

“We were told at the hospital she was supposed to be taken in at St. Petersburg that they would try to remain open, but it wasn’t actually guaranteed that we could get there in our vehicles if the roads were flooded,” Bradley said. “We didn’t want to take the chance being down there. We were going to get the effects of the hurricane no matter what because of how big it was. We just wanted to be safe. Then it made the turn and came up this way, but I still think we definitely made the right decision.”

Emmalee and Dawson were scheduled to be discharged from the hospital Friday. They said they planned to stay with her parents for two weeks to give her time to recover and then travel back home to St. Petersburg.

They have talked to people back home in Florida, and initial reports are they may not have a lot of cleanup work once they do return home.

“I don’t think there’s too much damage where we actually live,” Emmalee said.

And Irma is just a memory and story they can one day tell Dawson.

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