By Elaine Keogh
A mother who saved up for 2 years to bring her daughter to Disney World in Orlando said that at the height of Hurricane Irma the pair took shelter in their hotel bathroom.
They were on the third floor of the Rosen Inn on International Drive and Eimear Hilliard said, “the staff here have been fantastic and were very calm and said ‘we have been here before,’ and were just brilliant.”
Eimear said the families of the staff also moved into the hotel over the weekend along with people who had evacuated away from Miami.
Eimear and her daughter Caoimhe (9) are due home later this week and Eimear said, “I surprised Caoimhe with the holiday. I woke her in the middle of the night to say we are going to Disney World.”
She said “I have always wanted to bring her here and I saved for the last two years.”
She said they have done the majority of the rides “as well as Disney Land and Universal and the Magic Kingdom,” before they found out about Irma.
“We were having dinner across the road in Hooter’s (restaurant) and the waitress asked if I was prepared for the storm.”
She tried to get flights back to Ireland or up to New York but they were all cancelled. She said it was really the fear of the unknown that made her look at that option but “the staff at the hotel made me feel safe and said, we will look after you.”
A curfew was imposed and the mother and daughter, from Slane, county Meath spent most of Sunday in their bedroom.
Speaking from their yesterday (Monday), she said, “There was a buzzer that would sound which meant you had to stay in your rooms and not leave them. That made it a lot scarier.”
Although the power went out, the hotel had a generator as back up and electricity was restored.
Information was distributed to guests on the televisions in their rooms.
Eimear admitted that, “at one point the windows were shaking with the wind and rain and our beds are beside the window. It was like that for two hours solid.”
“Around 8-9pm it got really scary and we hid in the bath in the bathroom which is at the back of the bedroom. The wind was belting off the windows.”
Speaking after the hurricane had passed and the winds were easing she said, “there are still no cars on the road because of the curfew but it’s very calm now and there is no rain although it is a bit windy.”
Despite the shock of a hurricane arriving in the middle of the holiday, Eimear said, “we would absolutely come back again. It was unfortunate that we were here when this happened but it could be worse, we could have been on an island or in the coastal areas where it was a lot worse.”
Meanwhile a Dundalk woman who got caught up in Hurricane Irma has said it has not put her off wanting to be a storm chaser.
Shannon Van Kalkeren (22) said she and boyfriend James Kieran (25) “heard at the very last minute that the eye of the hurricane was going straight through Orange County.”
They are in the last week of their holiday in Orlando and “we found out last week there was a hurricane coming and while everybody was prepared, we only found out at the last minute that it was coming straight through.”
The couple is on the fourth floor of a hotel on International Drive and complemented the public information coming through television news and from officials.
“The advice was to go into your bathroom and stay away from windows as much as you could,” she said.
“A curfew was in place from 7pm Sunday to 6pm Monday and the hotel shut its doors so nobody could get out. There are no traffic lights because the power is gone and the Mayor said anybody found driving will be arrested.”
The arrival of the hurricane was marked with tornado warnings and Shannon said, “I wanted to be a storm chaser when I was a child.”
She said the possibility of a tornado hitting the hotel was more scary for her than the hurricane as they are known to catch people unawares.
When the hurricane arrived “the wind was very very loud. I had ear plugs in and could still hear it perfectly.”
“The windows in our room were hurricane proof but the rain came through and our carpet is soaking.”
“It has not put me off being a storm chaser,” she quipped.