A FAMILY from Southwater was amongst thousands of UK holiday makers stranded in the USA this week due to natural disasters. Soon after experiencing an earthquake, Jane and Paul Terry, along with their 13 year old son Alasdair, learned Hurricane Irene was heading their way! Jane wrote to the County Times from America, describing the family’s ordeal:
“It was about two hours after the strongest earthquake to shake the east coast of America in 67 years that we heard about the possibility that we would be hit by Hurricane Irene later in the week.
We were being driven to downtown Washington, DC. The traffic was virtually gridlocked as workers, evacuated from their offices, made their way home much earlier than normal.
To make matters worse, the underground train network had been slowed to a precautionary 15 miles per hour.
The sound of fire engine sirens filled the streets as rescue teams attempted to find a way through the traffic chaos.
Experiencing an earthquake was not something we’d ever imagined would happen to us.
It was the rumble we heard first. Then we felt the vibration, and finally the surprise that inanimate objects such as walls, windows and coat pegs were moving by themselves.
The intense vibration could have been a speeding train, a heavily laden goods vehicle or road excavation machine.
This was just a fleeting thought because we knew that we were not close to any of those things - it had to be an earthquake.
The sound and vibration ceased as quickly as it had started: we had encountered bewilderment, excitement, fear and relief all in under 30 seconds.
Fortunately, there were no injuries and minor damage to buildings.
Over the next couple of days, the American news media broadcast stories of impending doom about Hurricane Irene.
We learned first hand that in Britain we may think we have extremes of weather but it is nothing compared with that which is experienced by the United States.
This is weather on a grand scale.
While the possible outcomes were over-hyped, there was nevertheless real danger that had to be taken seriously. Everybody was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
We were due to leave on Sunday (August 28) for home in Horsham on a flight from Philadelphia, with a brief stopover in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The timing and route put us directly into the path of Irene. Even if we had wanted to ignore it we were forced to face the situation when our airline issued an advisory notice on Friday morning.
Passengers planning to fly on Saturday or Sunday were asked to urgently change their travel plans.
We did so, thus extending our holiday. On the one hand, how exciting to have more leisure time than expected, but on the other was the realisation that this event was actually going to happen and we were in imminent danger.
Accurately predicted by the forecasters, Saturday’s rain turned from light to heavy, then torrential as the hurricane corridor came over the house.
The wind was howling and gusting up to 75mph. At 10.30pm the lights started to flicker.
We assembled our torches and candles, but there was nothing more we could do. By first light the rain had eased, and winds remained high but not as ferocious. The worst was over.
After lunch we ventured out to see what Irene had done to our neighbourhood.
Thankfully in our area damage was light. A flooded shopping centre car park and a fallen tree that had blocked a road and brought down some power lines.
Like us the locals breathed a huge sigh of relief - we had escaped the worst.
When we took off from Gatwick we had great hopes of an action-packed adventure. But who’d have thought it would feature both an earthquake and hurricane in the same week!