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Hurricane Dorian changes family plans over Labor Day weekend

For West Palm Beach resident Grace Maclaughlin, being with family is reason enough to endure the threat of a major storm. When news of Hurricane Dorian spread, many people searched online for the first ticket out of Florida, but Maclaughlin prepared for a Labor Day weekend sheltered from the storm. 


Maclaughlin has lived in Florida her entire life, and she’s endured many hurricanes throughout the years. Her family put up shutters and got the appropriate amount of food and water for themselves and their dog. 


To many native Floridians, the news of a hurricane is an expected disturbance. For visitors, it’s a reason to drop hundreds or even thousands of dollars on last minute flights far away from the hurricane’s projected path.


Instead of barbeques and pool parties, people who chose to stay in Florida made plans to buy gasoline and emergency supplies.


“I was definitely nervous, but I know how the world works when a hurricane comes,” Maclaughlin said. “Half the people freak out, and the other half don’t take it seriously. There isn’t an in-between.”


Some out-of-state visitors and part-time Floridians chose to evacuate. They purchased their tickets in under 24 hours before getting on the flight.


 At the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, the atmosphere was more social than normal. Rather than rushing past each other, people unplugged their headphones and put away their cellphones to discuss Dorian. 


Near the boarding gate of a flight to Washington, D.C., the benches were filled with people talking about Hurricane Dorian and the relief of evacuation.


Avena tracks the hurricane’s path while waiting to board flight to D.C.

“I don’t want to be anywhere near here,” Ivan Avena, a medical student, said. 

Like many travelers, Avena just wanted to get home to his family.


 “Back in 2017, I was actually in St. Martin when Hurricane Irma hit. It was a Category 5,” Avena said. “I didn’t have any previous hurricane experience, so after that, I was thinking anything Category 3 and it is just not worth it.”


His priority was to get back home to his family in Washington, D.C. and avoid the threat of a hurricane. Rather than taking the chance of losing power and being captive indoors, Avena bought an airline ticket the previous day.


“I talked to my landlord and got supplies in my room and left my vehicle and said, ‘Hey if there’s an emergency and you need gas, my tank is full’ and I stocked up on water,” Avena said. “They’re projecting it’s going to get worse, so I’m leaving.” 


Airport patrons discuss evacuation while waiting in line to board flight.

Some Floridians prefer to stay with family and take the necessary precautions for keeping safe. They stay up-to-date with the news to monitor the change of the hurricane’s path and its intensity. 


 Maclaughlin had her family by her side through the threat of the storm. Avena had the opportunity to fly back home to D.C. sooner than his completion of residency in November.

 

Even though Hurricane Dorian disrupted Maclaughlin and Avena’s Labor Day weekend, they were both grateful for the extra time they spent with their families.


By Heather Chiles, Jessica Fernandez

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