Hotels and Hurricanes

As I finished up my work with another convention group here in Orlando today the client mentioned they were heading out to the airport early due to all the hurricane preparations.

“Huh?  Joaquin has already passed Florida and moving on up North” I replied. “Looks like this one is missing us.”

“We know, and now it’s expected to hit us back in New Jersey, so we need to get outta this place right away and get home!”

Image acquired February 19, 2010: Tropical Cyclone Gelane had sustained winds of 125 knots (230 kilometers per hour) and gusts up to 150 knots (275 kilometers per hour), according to a report from the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) on February 19, 2010. The JTWC reported that Gelane was roughly 315 nautical miles (585 kilometers) east-northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius, and was forecast to travel toward the southwest, weakening slightly as it moved. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on February 19, 2010. Gelane’s spiral arms span hundreds of kilometers over the open ocean. Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott. Instrument:  Aqua - MODIS For more details and a higher res file of this image go to: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=42767
Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

And just like that the conversation reminded me of how many times over the years I’ve been involved with hurricane preparation both on the home front and while out traveling.  So I thought I’d share a few details about what happens at hotels behind the scenes while the wind is howling and the waves are wildly crashing and the unsuspecting guests are, um, in the middle of hurricane mania, usually for the first time in their lives.

For starters, most hotels have some kind of disaster management plan in place whether it’s for hurricanes or heart attacks, or as can often be the case, heart attacks that happen during hurricanes.  And this is especially true for beachfront hotels that have to weather the brunt of the storms.  Considering that guest safety is first and foremost, pool and lawn furniture quickly gets picked up and moved inside before becoming the next beach side launch missile.

But many hotels also have plenty of balcony furniture to deal with, too.  A friend found herself in the thick of things in Los Cabos, Mexico during this past summer when hurricane Blanca was stirring, and suddenly preparations were under way for an evacuation. As a side note, this area had just taken a huge hit during the 2014 Hurricane season thanks to Odile, and some hotels there had still not even reopened yet.  Anyway, this time hotels were more prepared, even slipping frequent updated notes under guests’ doors to give the latest details and help calm the tourist panic.  My friend told me the hotel was doing just a super job in every possible way including turning the ballroom into a makeshift restaurant for all guests remaining (the airport had closed) once the gusting winds made it impossible to eat outside or anywhere close to glass-enclosed restaurant areas.  But, there was a brief moment of potential meltdown due to language challenges between her and the hotel maid that was frantically knocking on her door one afternoon apparently motioning to get out on her balcony.  She cautiously followed the maid and realized she had been instructed to move all the balcony furniture into the safety of the hotel room and well away from the windows.  Okay, then.

Cancun hurricane 2005
Uh-oh. Who’s going out after all that beach furniture?

And yet another friend sent me this picture of the hotel ballroom where she was staying during Hurricane Wilma when it hit during a 2005 business trip she was on to Cancun, Mexico (yes, people do take business trips to Cancun).  This ballroom was filled with cots for guests to sleep on while they rode out the storm, although it should be noted that she said most from her group of professionals weathered the storm from the safety and security of the comfy-cozy lobby bar (and yes, business can be conducted in a lobby bar in Cancun).

This ballroom was turned into a different type of guest room when filled with cots to sleep on during Hurricane Wilma.
This hotel ballroom was turned into one giant guest room when filled with cots to sleep on during Hurricane Wilma.

Living in Florida we’re quite familiar with the hurricane preparation drill.  But next time you’re hunkering down in whatever location you’ve taken refuge, try to imagine what it would be like from the standpoint of an unsuspecting tourist in town to find some sunshine and magic to help them forget about the hardships of daily life during their brief time here.  All our friends in the hotels, attractions, and tourism complexes have a huge job on their hands whenever storms hit because there’s nothing very hospitable about starting your vacation at the same time as a monster storm!

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Just your average middle age gal trying to deal with career/life/family changes and issues while studying people and places, one lobby bar at a time.

2 thoughts on “Hotels and Hurricanes

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