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Running from Dorian

A Vacation on Hurricane Lane & How You Can Stay Safe

By now, Dorian is a household name. You’ve seen the images from the decimated Bahamian islands and heard the tragic news about the death toll ticking up. Homes are destroyed. Roads are now raging waterways.

Until about a week ago, I always thought of hurricanes as a kind of tropical vengeance, one I would never experience firsthand. Then I went to Daytona, Florida, with my family for vacation. The plan was to sun and surf at the beach for a few days before heading inland to Orlando. There, we would play at the theme parks and fly home on Labor Day.

Almost immediately upon our arrival, meteorologists started predicting Dorian’s wrath and path. It didn’t look good for Florida, but we thought we could get out in time. As the week wore on, Dorian’s magnitude amped up to a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 200 MPH. Mandatory evacuations were issued for much of Florida.

With no car, we felt stranded. We received alerts from United Airlines that we could change our flights without being charged. We attempted to rebook earlier flights to ensure we could escape Dorian, but everything was booked up. We looked at flying out of Atlanta, an 8-hour drive from Orlando, but rental cars were long gone. Eventually, we settled on the idea of having relatives in Georgia drive down to pick us up, travel back to their small town, and fly out as soon as possible.

Then Dorian’s storm path prediction changed. The aptly name “cone of uncertainty” shifted. Florida was no longer the main target. Georgia and South Carolina were now in Dorian’s crosshairs. Our plan B just blew away.

So, we waited and watched the news obsessively (which I do not recommend if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation). And we watched the hotel guests around us. We were staying in the Universal compound at a resort called Sapphire Falls. The kid-friendly hotel turned into hurricane lodgings overnight. I have never seen so many dogs in a hotel in my entire life. One baggage cart was stacked high with four pet carriers, while a nearby guest tried untangling her multiple dog leashes as the pooches frantically ran in opposite directions. My 8-year-old daughter finally asked me if there was a dog conference at our hotel.

While it was heartwarming to see Universal opening its doors to help, images of what was headed our way kept everyone nervous, glued to the news. Chaos was unfolding now in Georgia and South Carolina, as residents raced to escape. The Orlando International Airport issued a warning that it would shut down on Monday, the day we were supposed to fly out. Hours later, they amended the statement to say they would shut down the airport on Tuesday morning at 2 a.m., giving us exactly 10 hours to get out of Orlando or risk being stranded. As our flight time grew closer, we watched more than 1,100 flights get canceled out of Orlando and neighboring airports. Finally, at 4:10 p.m. Monday afternoon, our plane (bumpily) left Orlando. We finally made it back to Montana Monday night; we all slept like logs. It was the first solid sleep in a week.

As I get back into my work rhythms and routines, I’m having a hard time leaving Dorian behind. I think of the uncertainty, the fear, the fury that a Cat 5 hurricane brings. And, inevitably, I think of the swindlers, the scammers and cheats, who will try to profit from this catastrophe. Within the three days, Google has alerted me to multiple Dorian-related scams already cropping up. Today, a Newsweek article warned of price gouging (when sellers raise the price of goods during a national disaster, which is not only unethical, it’s illegal) on food, water, hotel rooms and gas.

There are also concerns about fake charities popping up and stealing well-meaning donors’ money. Reports of scam callers selling fake flood insurance are also rolling in. When the storm recedes, we know we’ll hear about scammers selling flood damaged cars.

While it’s horrible to imagine anyone cashing in on tragedy, it happens all the time, and it’s happening with Dorian. So, before you donate, or try to book a pricey hotel room for a loved one, take five minutes and visit our website. The Better Business Bureau is here to keep you safe when life feels unpredictable and out of control. We are a non-profit, non-partisan agency committed to keeping tabs on the bad guys, so you have one less worry keeping you awake at night.

Please visit us at bbb.org/us/news so we can help.  

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Written by Hannah Stiff

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