Sunday 22 October 2017

'One of the most frightening things we could imagine' - Irish newlyweds stranded in Florida as Hurricane Irma closes in

Alison Desmond and her husband Leigh
Alison Desmond and her husband Leigh
Florida residents flee the anticipated arrival of Irma (Orlando Sentinel/AP)

Rebecca Lumley

An Irish couple on their honeymoon have found themselves stranded in Florida with little access to food and water, as Hurricane Irma closes in on the east coast state.

Alison Desmond and her husband Leigh arrived in Miami last Monday, where locals warned them of the “bad weather” on the way.

The couple, from Youghal Co Cork, had booked to leave Miami on an MSC cruise, but discovered it had been cancelled on Wednesday.

Speaking from a hotel in Tampa, Florida, Ms Desmond told Independent.ie that their situation escalated quickly from there.

“Our hotel then evacuated everyone, all the water from supermarkets was gone and gas stations ran out of gas. The only flight we could get was to Tampa,” she said.

“We arrived in Tampa yesterday. Tampa now also has begun mandatory evacuating which means our flight home on Sunday is now not going ahead either.”

Ms Desmond and her husband found accommodation in the Hampton Hotel, which does not have a restaurant and only serves breakfast.

She said that it was “up to each person to get stocked up on food”, but upon their arrival in Tampa, most of the supermarkets had been cleared of essentials.

“Almost all local restaurants and supermarkets closed yesterday and everybody was advised to stock up on food and water. When we got to the supermarket all meat, milk and bottled water was gone. So we just grabbed some canned soup, porridge oats and some protein bars,” she said.

Though thousands have been evacuating Florida over the past few days, hotel staff advised the couple not to travel.

Florida residents flee the anticipated arrival of Irma (Orlando Sentinel/AP)
Florida residents flee the anticipated arrival of Irma (Orlando Sentinel/AP)

“There have been road closures, lots of petrol stations are out of fuel and every journey is taking hours longer than it usually would, so we could end up still on the road when Irma hits,” Ms Desmond said.

“Since we landed in Miami on Monday night, this whole experience has been the most stressful and frightening things we could ever imagine and every day the uncertainty makes it even worse.”

“We aren't bothered about the fact our honeymoon is ruined anymore, we just want to be home and safe.”

The couple are hoping to “ride out” the storm in their hotel, the Hampton Inn at Tampa International Airport, which a hurricane shelter.

Hurricane Irma is driving toward Florida passing the eastern end of Cuba in this NASA's GOES-16 satellite image taken at about 0800 EDT on September 8, 2017.
Hurricane Irma is driving toward Florida passing the eastern end of Cuba in this NASA's GOES-16 satellite image taken at about 0800 EDT on September 8, 2017.

As yet they are unsure when they will be able to travel home.

Irma has been hailed as one of the fiercest Atlantic storms of the century and is expected to hit Florida on Sunday morning.

It made landfall in Cuba on Friday as a Category 5 storm and killed 21 people in the eastern Caribbean.  

Earlier this week, officials ordered an historic evacuation in Florida, which has been hampered by clogged highways, petrol shortages and the challenge of moving elderly people.

The United States has been hit by only three Category 5 storms since 1851, and Irma is far larger than the last one in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A total of 5.6 million people, or 25pc of the state's population, were ordered to evacuate Florida, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a videotaped statement that Irma was "a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential" and called on people to heed recommendations from government officials and law enforcement.

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