Monday 18 November 2019

'We're meant to be renewing our vows' - Irish family’s holiday hell after Irma wreaks havoc

  • Irish holidaymakers stranded in Miami until 'at least' Wednesday
  • Miami and Orlando airports 'closed for business' - Aer Lingus spokesman
  • Couple's plans to renew wedding vows 'up in the air' due to devastation caused by Irma
  • 'My family hid in the closet' - Irish person in Florida
The Gorbutt family in Orlando, Florida
The Gorbutt family in Orlando, Florida

Amy Molloy and Denise Calnan

An Irish couple celebrating their ten-year anniversary in Florida are not sure if they will be able to renew their wedding vows now after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc across the Sunshine State.

Mark and Sharon Garbutt, along with their two children Leon (14) and Kayla (11), are currently stranded at their hotel in Orlando.

The couple, from Lusk in Dublin, were due to travel to Clearwater in Tampa Bay where they plan to renew their wedding vows on Saturday. However, the damage caused by Irma means they haven’t been able to leave the Rosen Inn Hotel on International Drive.

“I think with the storm surge, they’re expecting a lot of flooding at the Marriott Hotel where we were meant to be staying in Clearwater. We have family friends living in Charleston in South Carolina so we may have to finish off our holiday with them instead,” Sharon told

The Gorbutt family at Universal Studios
The Gorbutt family at Universal Studios

The Garbutt family had been looking forward to their dream holiday for almost a year, as they had booked everything last October.

Mark told how his daughter Kayla slept in the bathtub of their hotel room last night as the winds were so strong they feared the windows would smash.

He praised the hotel for how accommodating they’ve been, but he said Irma has put a “huge dampener” on their holiday.

“They have disaster rates which basically means everyone has been given a reduced rate. We were supposed to check out yesterday but looks like we’ll be here for another few days. We are a bit down about it...that’s a 48-hour period we’re never going to get back,” Mark told

“We have been trying to look up pictures of Clearwater to see how bad the damage is but we’re not sure of the extent of it yet. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to renew our vows now but hopefully we will.”

Mark said the hotel has also reduced the price of food and drink. Most of the guests are from Ireland, England and Scotland and he said people have been trying to keep a positive atmosphere.

Trees uprooted in Orlando Photo: Celine Daly
Trees uprooted in Orlando Photo: Celine Daly

“The bar has been hopping the last two nights whereas it was dead when we first got here.They're taking a couple of dollars off each meal and they are trying their best to accommodate people. It’s very good to see.”

The Dublin family arrived last Tuesday and are due to fly home next Tuesday.

Another Irish family living in Oviedo, just east of Orlando, said they spent last night in their closet.

Celine Daly, originally from Dublin, said her husband and three kids haven't left their home since Friday.

"I have lived through hurricanes before by this was something different. When it started to hit, I made everyone get into the closet. Our back yard is like a swimming pool," she told

Meanwhile, Irish holidaymakers in Miami will have to wait until at least Wednesday to escape Hurricane Irma and travel home, Aer Lingus said.

The airline said they are being "flexible" with their schedule following the deadly hurricane, but said they will need to wait for the airports in the state to reopen and be declared as safe.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Aer Lingus Director of Communications Declan Kearney said they brought their Orlando flight forward by five hours on Saturday to ensure people's safe journey home.

"The current situation is both Miami and Orlando airports are closed for business," Mr Kearney said.

"We've subsequently cancelled yesterday's operation to Miami and today's to Orlando.

"There is a flight to Orlando tomorrow and a flight to Miami on Wednesday. The situation is evolving and really is subject to the availability of the airport's infrastructure.

"Tomorrow's flight is still in question," Mr Kearney added.

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