COCOA BEACH, Fla. – As the power lines danced and trees violently twisted in the wind outside, Paul and Ann Jutras sat comfortably in their home, two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, as Hurricane Frances (search) headed their way.
The couple, both 61, didn't follow evacuation orders. Instead, they were looking forward to a test of the home Paul designed and considers to be hurricane-proof.
"If this house goes, the whole town will be gone," he said, watching a college football game on television while his wife read a book on their sofa. Their 34-year-old son watched TV in his bedroom.
Confident in their home, the family never considered leaving this barrier island just south of Cape Canaveral (search). Paul, a retired Defense Department engineer, said he had the house built twice as strong as regulations required.
"We built this place like a pillbox," he said, noting that he has two roofs in case the top one gets damaged. The house also has extra beams, plywood far thicker than most builders use and electric, self-closing hurricane shutters. "I drove the contractors nuts."
While shelters were filled with people trying to escape Frances, there was no shortage of those willing to ride out the storm in hotels and private homes. Driven by curiosity or the need to protect their property, families settled in while high winds and rains pelted their neighborhoods.
Jeff Pantzer, 36, was calm as Frances' storm bands began hitting Stuart on Saturday morning. He boarded up his home and said he would remain there until the storm passed -- even though he lives within a mile of at least five hotels.
"I considered leaving in the beginning, until I heard about the traffic jams because of people taking off," said Pantzer, who works for a company that manages condo and homeowners' associations. "The house I live in was built in the '20s. I'm confident it'll be OK."
His neighbor, Luke Logue, wasn't so sure about his home, which was built in 1925. He boarded up the house, but checked into a nearby hotel Saturday, armed with bread, bananas and beer.
"It's not scary, for me," Logue said as a power line toppled nearby, sending a stream of sparks into the air. "But wind can push a lot of stuff around in a hurry."