Hurricane Charley hit on Aug 13, 2004. We were arriving several weeks later to visit my father so I didn’t think anything about it as far as impacting our trip.
We arrived in Florida on September 1, two and half weeks after Charley came ashore in Florida about 80 miles south of where my father lives. I have never seen such devastation going for miles and miles as we drove.
We had a nice visit with my father but then started getting reports that Hurricane Frances was set to land on Sept 4, 2004, the day of our flight to Aruba. Even though the storm was several days off, Ron thought we should change our flight to a day earlier. On Wednesday September 1st, Ron called and got us a flight for Friday at 11:50 am. We said goodbye to dad and left a day early. When we arrived at Miami airport it looked like a war zone and the public speakers were announcing that all flights after noon were canceled. The line was a mile long and our flight was set to leave in less then 2 hours. I don’t know how, but they got us checked in and through security, all the time the speakers are blaring, “If your flight is 12 noon or later, please go back to your hotels, we are not accepting any change of flights after this time.” Sounded pretty ominous.
We got to the gangway waiting for our flight when they reported that they couldn’t find an available flight attendant to accompany us on the flight and FAA regulations will not let the plane fly if it doesn’t have enough flight attendants. I know these laws are put in place to protect us, but at this point it would mean turning around, claiming our luggage and going to a hurricane shelter, surely they could fly with one less attendant to hand out peanuts and drinks.
After many agonizing minutes they found a flight attendant and we were able to take off. I think our flight was one of the last flights to leave, it was truly bizarre to see an entire airport and runways totally empty.
We arrived to Aruba one day early and headed to the bar for a drink, listening to the reports of Frances pounding the Miami airport that we had just left.
Much sun and laying around ensued for a few days.
Then we got news that another hurricane was heading our way, Ivan. Aruba is basically a desert coral island and gets very little rainfall, it is not setup to handle rain. Even though Ivan was 150 miles north of the island, it still dumped torrential rains on us, the island, with no drainage, was almost under water. It was not threatening to us, but it did close most businesses as all the roads where flooded for several days.
We managed somehow!
We arrived back for another week in Palm Beach on September 11th. As we drive to our hotel I noticed that most of the lights were still out, even though Frances hit this area a week previously. Surely it couldn’t take a week to restore power to large parts of the city? As we neared our hotel it was dark and we saw that police cars where blocking the way to the hotel. No police were in the cars, so we drove around on another side street to be able to get around them. We arrived at the hotel and there were no cars in the parking lot. When we walked in the clerk was startled to see us walk through the doors. Apparently they had just had the power restored that afternoon and the hotel had been closed all week, this was news to us! The clerk told us the police cars blocked people from coming onto the island after dark as part of a curfew for the safety of the local residents houses, all of whom had been evacuated. Luckily, they checked us in and told us we were only the second guest of the hotel.
That week hurricane Ivan hit Florida on Sept 16, 2004, so Ivan hit us twice, once in Aruba and once in Florida, for us it was just an inconvenience but to see the destruction and loss that some people experienced was really something.
That week the restaurants were serving limited “Hurricane” menus, not having lots of choices to offer because of restocking supplies.
Maybe in the future we shouldn’t travel to Florida in September!