Park City couple stranded in Cancun |

Park City couple stranded in Cancun

A relaxing beach vacation turned sour for two Parkites when Hurricane Wilma raged through Cancun and left them stranded. Manuel Maravi and Ted Clayton were scheduled to fly home on Oct 20, but instead they were evacuated that day from their hotel to a nearby school to wait out the coming storm. What was supposed to be 24 to 48 hours turned into a four-day stay when the storm made a slow approach onshore. Maravi and Clayton were ushered into a classroom with 25 people. They were given a blanket, sheet and pillow. The windows were boarded up, and although they could not see the storm they could hear its fury. When the brunt of the storm hit, the power failed and they were left to sit in darkness with no running water. "The hurricane was showing who is in charge," Maravi said. With fans no longer circulating air, the room became humid and began to smell. Water seeped in and it was a constant battle to keep the floor and blankets dry. Since the projected time period for the storm was underestimated, food and water had to be rationed. They ate cereal with no milk for breakfast, tuna fish for lunch and Ramen noodles for dinner. Amid the storm, a cinder block wall along the perimeter caved in. Clayton said he worried that the roof might blow off or the second floor might collapse onto the first floor. Unlike many of the other nearby shelters, both the roof and the floors were spared. In their schoolroom most people were from the United States or Mexico, including five couples on their honeymoons. Clayton said everybody acted differently under stress and there were some constant complainers. When they were given the ok to leave the building, Maravi and Clayton walked out into a world wrought with downed trees and power lines and demolished buildings. "The most difficult thing for me was to see the aftermath," Maravi said. Clayton and Maravi volunteered to help a family clear tree debri from their yard. The family offered Clayton and Maravi a home-cooked meal, which they gratefully accepted. They then took a taxi back to their hotel and hopped on a bus arranged by the U.S. Consulate to take them to an airport in the nearby city of Merida. When they arrived in Merida, they found out the U.S. had not arranged any flights for them as they had expected. They were taken to another school, where they slept on the gym floor. It was here that they were able to take a shower for the first time in four days. The next morning, out of a dozen buses that were supposed to take them to the airport, only four or five had stayed. Many people had left their luggage on the missing buses. Clayton and Maravi hailed another taxi to the airport where they waited in line for a flight to Mexico City, a large international airport with flights to the United States. They were 12 people away from the counter when the Mexico City flight filled up. They were told they would have to wait another five days for the next flight. Instead, they rented a car and drove the 18 hours to Mexico City. They covered 1,000 miles and almost ran out of cash along the way because it was a toll road and no gas stations accepted credit cards. They waited two hours in rush hour traffic in Mexico City and they were less than a mile from the airport when they were pulled over by Mexican police who hassled them and told them their car was going to be impounded and they would be fined. Maravi, originally from Argentina, speaks Spanish and explained their Hurricane experience and pleaded with the officer who eventually let them go after 10 minutes. The pair flew standby on separate flights from Mexico City to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Salt Lake City and, finally, arrived home to Park City at 1 a.m. on Oct 27. "It was a big sense of relief to be back home and be in control of the situation," Clayton said. Clayton and Maravi said they were grateful they had a home to return to and they were physically and emotionally drained.

"It makes you appreciate everything you have," Maravi said. "You are living with basic things trying to survive and when you get home you are so relieved."

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