By Kevin Wilson
After putting it off for nearly a year, Adrian and Kendra Lopez were looking forward to a honeymoon vacation they wouldn’t forget.
They certainly got that, as the vacation’s final days in Cancun featured a visit from Hurricane Emily.
The vacation started innocently enough months before, as the couple received a vacation offer from a telemarketer that was too good to pass up. The vacation, which started on July 13, had the two on Isla Mujeres, a small island that was a ferry ride away from Cancun.
“The storm weather first came on Saturday,” Adrian Lopez said. “When we found out, we were shopping. The government was strict about letting tourists know, so we found out (a lot of information) from people who were just flying in.”
Some clues still existed to tip off the two, such as a sudden shutdown on alcohol sales past 4 p.m. Kendra Lopez said the two went for a drink and were directed back to their hotel’s bar, where they heard that the government didn’t want people drinking before the hurricane arrived.
“What freaked me out was the weather was so calm and sunny (when they told us),” she said. “It was just too calm for there to be a hurricane coming. It was scary.”
A few hours later, they were hearing that they would be taken, along with other hotel patrons, to a shelter during the storm. In the time leading up to the shelter trip, the pair made phone calls to relatives in New Mexico. To their surprise, relatives back home had much more information on the storm.
“At about 12 o’clock at night, we started calling family and friends,” Adrian Lopez said. “They let us know how many miles per hour it was going to be, when it was going to hit.”
The group first arrived at the shelter at about 10 a.m. Sunday and would spend the next 24 hours there. The shelter, Kendra Lopez said, was about the size of an average hotel conference room, and space was limited. Everybody was allowed to bring one change of clothes and some small personal items (i.e. a toothbrush).
The two admitted they were scared during the situation, but said some people went to extremes.
“It was really tough because you see people in that situation,” Adrian Lopez said. “I saw an older man steal a blanket from a little kid. There weren’t enough blankets and pillows for everybody. Say you have a family of four, you get one blanket and one pillow and some towels.”
The winds that blew outside the shelter were recorded at speeds of up to 137 mph.
“When we were in the shelter, it (started at) about 60 miles per hour. There are hallways in the shelter, and once it picked up at around 8 o’clock, you can see the trees here (at this point, he used his right arm to represent a 45-degree angle). At about 10 o’clock, the trees are laying down, car alarms are going off.”
About 12 hours later, the shelter’s occupants were able to leave and see the damage of what they had experienced the night before.
“Once we got back to the hotel Monday, there was no beach. You saw vehicles with palm trees stuck in them, you saw boats on the streets, you saw devastation.”
When they arrived back to the hotel, Adrian Lopez said, the only staff member at the hotel was confirming departing flights for guests. They confirmed a flight and grabbed items they had left in their room, which was left with about six inches of standing water.
The two still had an extra day of vacation, but decided that they would rather wait at the airport for a flight than stay in the post-hurricane area. They flew to Houston at 2:40 p.m., and turbulence from the hurricane added nearly two hours to a flight that normally lasts 90 minutes.
The two have varying views on whether or not they would have liked to live through that experience if given the choice. Adrian said the hurricane is “stuck in my mind” and overshadows other memories; Kendra said they had five days worth of fun before the hurricane struck, and the experience makes them better prepared for other disasters.
They do both agree on one thing. They’d gladly go to Cancun again, but hopefully with calmer conditions.
“Definitely,” Adrian Lopez said. “My family might be upset that I said it, but yeah, I would.”