Point Park University student Angela Altieri arrived in Orlando, Fla., at Walt Disney World as Hurricane Irma bore down on the state. This is her story.
By: Angela Altieri
Every year to celebrate my birthday, my mother and I plan short trips together. Little did I know that this year’s excursion would put us in the direct path of a hurricane.
About a week before my planned trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., I first heard about Hurricane Irma.
We both thought about changing the dates of our trip but decided to still go. Of course, it’s not every day you fly into a city preparing for a major hurricane.
We left Thursday, Sept. 7, and by the time we had arrived in Orlando, we were told to change our departing flight from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening due to the inclement weather.
We were forced to change our hotel accommodations halfway through the trip because we had to extend our stay. We could not remain in our original hotel. Disaster workers were arriving from other states to help and were scheduled to stay at our location.
We had to hustle to find a new place to stay. To make matters difficult, most hotels in the Orlando area were full with families who evacuated southern Florida. Luckily, my mom knew a vacation planner for Disney who was able to get us into the only room left in the entire Walt Disney World resort.
Our first two days in Disney were great: There were absolutely no guests in the parks. Everyone was leaving as we were arriving. It was so barren in the parks that we were able to walk onto every ride in the Magic Kingdom. In fact, when boarding the Jungle Cruise ride in the park, we were the only two on the ride.
Disney announced park closures and a curfew beginning on Sept. 9. The parks would close all weekend and we would be confined to our resort.
The company took great care of its guests offering bagged meals, along with entertainment throughout each resort to relieve tensions. At Port Orleans, we had Disney characters entertain us, along with a movie night and activities throughout the lobby.
Lockdown began at 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10th. Around 11 p.m., Hurricane Irma (at that point a category 1 storm) hit hard with howling winds that sounded and felt like the windows and doors would break open. It was honestly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. This went on until about 4 a.m.
The next day when I woke up, you would never have guessed a hurricane was howling the night before; outside, the sun glowed and there was a slight breeze.
I did venture out of our room to see what the rest of the resort looked like. The damage to our resort has been superficial, with trees blown down throughout but the buildings are all intact.
Currently, we are still technically under lockdown. But the show must go on: Cast members are clearing the resort, and restaurants on property will open at 1 p.m.
The parks will resume regular operating hours Sept. 12., and I will soon be home.