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Hurricane Wilma Survivor Story

Facts, Videos and Stories on a Vacation Ruined by Hurricane Wilma

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Hurricane Wilma

Hurricane Wilma was tracked from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida, and up the east coast of the United States in this satellite composite image.

NOAA and the National Weather Service
Continued from page 1

When I woke up on Saturday morning I felt the pangs of hunger and thought of how impossible it must be for hunger-strikers to go on like this for days and weeks at a time. I think I am way too weak and enjoy food way too much to give it up, but then again so are hunger-strikers, I am sure, yet they would not be discouraged. By now I myself was more than discouraged.

There was a general unrest in the inner courtyard which has become sort of a meeting and socializing place; it was covered and sheltered from the strongest winds, provided one held on tight to the railings and did not mind an occasional shower which the stronger gusts of wind would bring in… The people staying across the block were rallying everybody to go break into the kitchen and get some food. Children were already crying from hunger and their panic-stricken parents were walking around helplessly, thinking of how they never imagined this would ever happen to their own kids, brought up in the land of plenty.

Fighting for Food...

Then a couple of the people ventured to the kitchen (the wind has weakened considerably as we were near the eye of the hurricane), only to be rushed back by security and told that if anybody else tried to get to the kitchen, their whole block would get no food whatsoever. It was a strong persuasion and it worked. The rebellion was avoided. Instead, everybody was watching the clock and moving the little hands forward with their willpower (or wishful thinking).

At around 10 A.M. came a big uproar – a team of four hotel workers was seen approaching our block carrying food and big jugs of water. The food ended up to be the same tiny dry pitiful sandwiches with a microscopic slice of ham; they were two per person and were finished in two bites, but we were grateful for them nevertheless. We drank our allocated cups of water and were glad we previously saved a couple of bottles should the situation get worse. The day was spent hoping that the gradual weakening of the wind was finally signaling the retreat of the hurricane, but as the evening progressed and the winds gained strength again our hopes were crushed and we realized this was just the first half of the hurricane and with the eye passing nearby we were in for the second - and usually stronger - half of the storm.

The Hotel Crew to the Rescue...

The bottles of liquor in the rooms’ mini-bars were nearly empty and the end was still not in sight. Earlier in the evening the same hotel crew of brave men and women arrived with the same two pitiful sandwiches and another cup of water per person. We gratefully ate the sandwiches again, but secretly were thinking should we come out of this unharmed, we will never eat sandwiches again if we can help it. Then the darkness locked us in and there was nothing to shield our bare and scared souls from the merciless screams of the storm reaching its peak. I woke my husband to ask him to come and lay in the bathtub with me…

Sunday morning we are free men and women again. We can leave the forced confinement of our rooms and walk around. We go downstairs and turn onto the path towards the ocean. Around the corner, we see the wasteland that was once a beautiful, tropical park-like setting of our complex, full of monkeys and other half-tamed creatures, including strange huge rodents. We walk through the contorted tree carcasses and reach the beach. Although we lied on it for five days, we now do not recognize its new, completely changed curves.

The palms that survived are standing in interrupted rows, solemn witnesses to the disaster; their root balls naked, letting us know just how much everything has changed. Judging by the root balls, more than three feet of the sand was washed away. Some palms are precariously bent and leaning towards the water. People walk cautiously around them lest they may fall.

Noon comes and everybody makes a beeline for the restaurant. They are serving food again. Nothing like the full buffet menus of the days before the hurricane, the “breakfast-slash-lunch” consists mainly of eggs and bread rolls, but we are thankful for everything, that is until later on a good half of us including my husband gets cursed with a bad case of diarrhea. The gas lines in the hotel’s kitchen have been damaged and the eggs were prepared using small portable stoves. Given the vast quantity needed, no wonder hygiene and proper food preparation were not high on the list of priorities. We all make it through though without a need for a doctor, which is a good thing, given that we are now officially in a disaster zone.

Walking by the Devastation...

In the afternoon we walk to town. Taxis are scarce as most drivers stayed at home, trying to reassemble the shambles which once used to be their homes. Destruction is everywhere. Even the aviary which we did not manage to visit before the hurricane is in ruins, and pink flamingos are congregating along muddled pools of water, the remains of what was once a crystal-clear stream. Then we reach the town and realize that destruction we witnessed at the hotel does not come even close to what we see here in town. Nothing prepared us to seeing boats washed up the streets a whole block away from the beach, small charming beach hotels lying in ruin, huge inverted palapas (traditional roofs characteristic of the region) of once bustling bars and restaurants hanging limply from their frames.

We walk around dazed and still slightly confused by the turn our vacation took, my ears hurting from the constant howling of the wind during the previous three days. We come upon a small store where we purchase a roll of exorbitantly overpriced toilet paper (surely it must be gold-plated), the last candle for sale, and a small bag of what seems to be without exaggeration $1-per-single-chip snacks.

There were no phone cards to be had, so we walk on. In the end we do find a few phone cards and manage to call home. My Mom sounds worried but there is no time for reassurances - the card only gives us a few minutes to talk. I tell her that we are O.K., but we don’t know when we can make it back. The airport is half destroyed, we heard, and it is out of order until further notice.Read more on page 3...

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