Instead of celebrating her milestone birthday with friends in a posh Airbnb in Cancun, Mexico, one American woman is hunkering down in a hurricane shelter.
Kristyn Owens traveled from Los Angeles to Cancun to celebrate her 30th birthday in what was supposed to be a Covid-safe way in a country that allowed Americans, she told CNN.
Americans are banned from traveling to most countries in the world because of the pandemic, but there are still a few places they can go. Mexico, Ireland, South Korea and some islands in the Caribbean are some of them.
But Hurricane Delta had other plans. The quickly intensifying storm became a Category 4 hurricane Tuesday with sustained winds of 145 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is projected to hit Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula early Wednesday.
Tuesday, the day after Owens’ birthday, Owens said her Airbnb host called to warn them it wasn’t safe to stay in the lux condo. The Los Angeles resident was nervous for the impending hurricane, something she’s never experienced.
“Initially I was really scared the host said not to stay because it’s dangerous with breaking glass,” Owens told CNN. “I don’t want to say I’m heartbroken, because I’m in good spirits … but I can say on the flip side, I am happy to find shelter because at 10 a.m. we didn’t have a place to stay.”
Owens said she called 15 hotels to search for accommodation for her, her husband and a close friend. One by one, they said they either had no rooms or were closing because of the hurricane.
The hotel she secured tried to cancel the reservation when she was 5 minutes away by taxi. Owens said she pleaded with the front desk and they were allowed to check in and stow their luggage.
The trio was whisked away on a coach bus with other hotel guests to a hurricane shelter. It was about a 30- to 40-minute ride farther inland in Cancun, she said.
A school with boarded-up windows and brown cots strewn on the classroom floor would make for their home as the storm passed. Owens was told they would likely be there for two days.
As the storm hasn’t hit yet, the guests can go outside for now, a “silver lining” of sorts, she said.
“All of the hotel occupants are spread between these classrooms,” Owens said. “They gave us a sandwich, juice and water, and pillow and sheets.”
Coronavirus has added a layer of complexity to the situation, one that’s even more stressful for the birthday girl.
Her small group is sharing one classroom with a family and a couple, Owens said.
“We have sanitizer, but that’s it,” Owens said. “Each family is in a separate corner of the room trying to stay to themselves.”
“Having to keep a mask on 90% of the day is difficult and I’m extremely anxious, so breathing can become difficult.”
Everyone is wearing masks and guests’ temperatures were read before they were allowed to board the bus for the shelter, Owens said.
“It was very well executed,” she said. “It’s not ideal. This is not the Westin, by any means.”
About 50 miles south of Cancun, Monica Hawke is riding out the storm at a resort called Barceló Maya Riviera.
The realtor from Southern Pines, North Carolina, said she had no choice but to stay, as she was not able to get a flight home until Friday. The storm is expected to make landfall Wednesday.
“When we realized late last night that the storm path was more westerly than we saw on Sunday, we could not find any available seats to anywhere in the US for today,” Hawke wrote to CNN.
Hawke was invited to Mexico to join a friend who didn’t want to vacation solo. “We have not seen each other in four years so I hopped at the chance,” she said.
Now the hotel traded in the pair’s third-floor oceanfront room for one facing the gardens, hoping it will be safer from the incoming weather.
Americans aren’t the only ones trying to make it home safe.
Mexico City resident Luis G. López was staying at Hotel Imperial Las Perlas in Cancun, when he said he received a note from the hotel that guests had one hour to evacuate because of the storm Tuesday. He arrived in Cancun on Saturday.
López, a student, and other guests were transported to Cancun International Airport, where he posted a video of the long lines of people trying to evacuate the area. He was booked on a flight Tuesday night and hoped he’s able to get home, he wrote to CNN.
As the storm get closer, Owens said she is nervous to see the impact of the storm. But, she’s passing the time playing cards and watching some Netflix programs she had downloaded.
“We’re going to make the best of it,” she said.