My family was spending time in South Florida during the development of Hurricane Dorian which lead to some new decision forks about what to do in the path of potential natural doom.
The Storm Develops
The tropical storm that later developed over Puerto Rico into a Category 1 hurricane, Dorian, took a while to come together. Without getting into meteorology, a number of complex forces made its eventual formation unlikely. European models put the storm striking first over Cape Canaveral, just north of Orlando, across the state to Tampa before re-entering the northeast Gulf of Mexico, regaining strength and then potentially making a second landfall in Louisiana.
Days of Changing Information
Over the ensuing days the model evolved. Hurricane Dorian would be stronger than expected but the strike zone still couldn’t be determined. For a few days the hurricane looked as though it would cut across the state of Florida from the east to the west where my family was at the time in Fort Myers, Florida.
Despite avoiding a “direct strike” the outer winds would still wreak havoc on the city and even if the true impact of the hurricane was on the east coast, there would still be high winds and heavy rain that would make the rest of our stay anything but ideal.
By the time Saturday came, however, it looked like not only would the initial strike miss Fort Myers, but so would the swirling winds and rain as the models moved to a much more northern east coast model.
Options for Staying and Going
We had some tough choices to make. We haven’t been in a hurricane before, but my wife and I grew up in the midwest and tornados and heavy thunderstorms are nothing new to us. But this is not a serious or even a sustained thunderstorm. People are boarding up their windows, the grocery chain, Publix, ran out of bottled water. Considering leaving early seemed logical.
We flew Spirit to Fort Lauderdale for $67 roundtrip each (using the airport trick) and they weren’t helpful in storm adjustments. In fairness, however, the others weren’t either and Southwest didn’t have any adjustments at the time we were looking for our return date. That left us shopping for a way home early.
Southwest was sold out and moving a flight (had we booked a great deal with them) would have been ridiculously expensive ($500+/person). For those that believe that Southwest would have made this all better, they would be wrong, the difference in fare was enormous; even had we flown Southwest it would have made more sense to buy a separate ticket anyway.
Frontier had an option to fly into Cleveland but their price shot up by 30% and it made more sense to shop Allegiant from Punta Gorda to Pittsburgh directly. We grabbed those at the last minute for $375 for all three of us, forgoing $57 in savings if I had decided to drive to PGD to buy the tickets in person and including a bag.
What We Decided
I pushed the buy button then started to pursue images to share in this post.
“Always secure your own tickets first, then assist others in the form of a blog post.” – every safety video ever.
In the process of gathering screen shots I returned to Southwest to snag some of those sky high prices and guess who added some tickets? While they were more expensive per person than Allegiant, we have Companion Pass with Southwest, we also have some Southwest points to use.
We still weren’t sure where the hurricane would strike. Almost any award ticket is movable without penalty if not refundable back to the account and this was the most attractive option for us as we did not know whether we would want to take it. As of this writing, the hurricane appears that it will completely miss Fort Myers and we have chosen to stay awhile longer.
We don’t want to challenge a hurricane or underestimate its power. We don’t want to live in a natural disaster zone when escape is a possibility. That being said, we put a plan in place that is still executable up to ten minutes to departure and should the weather forecast clear, we can stay or we can go.
What do you think? Have you been in a similar situation? Is prudence the only choice?