A.L. family was stranded in D.C.

Published 9:50 am Thursday, November 1, 2012

Editor’s note: This story first broke on the Ahlahasa website: www.ahlahasa.com.


By Lani Hanson, Ahlahasa co-editor

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Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast on Monday night and left an Albert Lea High School student stranded in Washington.

Sophomore Taylor Willis was with her mother, Tammy, who participated in the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.

“When we started the marathon, it was windy,” Tammy said. “A few hours later the wind started to pick up, and it just got stronger from there on.”

The Willises weren’t expecting to be affected by the storm and were planning to return to Minnesota.

“All the news channels at first were saying something different,” Taylor said. “Some were saying it was supposed to hit Wednesday, some were saying Tuesday. And they weren’t exactly sure where it was supposed to hit the coast. So we kind of didn’t really know what was going to happen until Monday when it actually hit.”

When the Willises realized Sandy was quickly approaching, Tammy called the airline to see if they could get a late-night flight back home, only to find out all flights had already been canceled. The flight had been rescheduled to Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s when we got ready for it,” Taylor said. “The worst of it hit in New York and New Jersey, which is farther north, so we didn’t get hit with what everyone is seeing on the news; it was just really rainy and windy.”

Most of the D.C. area is shut down; even the federal government was closed on Monday. The main form of public transportation in the city — an underground train called the Metro — was also closed as it runs under the Potomac River, which flooded.

“All the stores were closed so we couldn’t really go anywhere,” Taylor said. “We stayed in our hotel all day yesterday, but we did go outside for like five minutes because I wanted to see how windy it was. It was really windy!”

Taylor also said the hotel ceiling was leaking in some areas and said they duct-taped the doors shut because they were leaking as well.

“We were in a hotel that was closer to the coast,” Taylor said. “But then we moved away from the river that was supposed to be flooding.”

Before leaving their original hotel, Taylor and her mother stopped at a CVS that was located inside the hotel — one of the few stores open at the time — to stock up on food and water. When they checked in at their second hotel, they were given a list of hurricane instructions, according to Tammy.

“They told us to fill our bathtub full of water, and they gave us glow sticks in case we need to evacuate,” she said.

The Willises haven’t been outside much due to wind and rain, but planned to take a taxi downtown Tuesday afternoon.

“Hopefully we’ll at least get out to go walk or something,” Tammy said.

The two have been spending most of their time in the hotel, playing cards, reading and — in Taylor’s case — working on homework.

Coincidentally, this isn’t the first time the family has been directly affected by a storm like Sandy.

“It’s kind of funny,” Tammy said. “We took a trip to Florida when Taylor was 9. We got hit by Hurricane Albert and had to evacuate. So traveling is not the best thing for us apparently.”

According to Tammy, flights won’t resume until the wind gusts die down to less than 35 mph. It’s still windy and she can see trees down, but she says as far as she knows their flight was still scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

“We won’t know probably until tonight or tomorrow if we’ll get out of here,” Tammy said. “We’re just kind of stuck.”