London News & Search
British expats and holidaymakers in Florida today told of their fear as Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction across the Sunshine State.
Matt and Zoe Caveney, from Liverpool, were forced to spend much of their honeymoon confined to their hotel room at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Mr Caveney, 28, who married Zoe, 22, on August 5, said: “I’ve never seen rain or wind like it in my life.
“With Orlando being in central Florida we aren’t getting it as bad as the coastal towns, but there are very strong winds and heavy rain battering down. We can hear the wind battering the door and trees outside. We are currently on curfew and have been told to stay in our hotel rooms.
“We were advised to purchase enough food and water in to keep us going through the weekend.
“We’re pretty calm about the whole thing — if a little apprehensive.”
Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow, a British couple living in Tampa Bay, opened their doors to more than 20 stranded holidaymakers unable to escape from the storm.
The couple, who became known as “Britain’s first gay dads” after fathering twins conceived via donor eggs and carried to term by a surrogate mother in 1999, moved from Essex to Florida six months ago. They had originally planned to escape the path of the hurricane but were forced to stay due to a petrol shortage.
They said the mood in the house was “very solemn and nobody knows what to expect” with house guests feeling “really scared and nervous”.
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow told the Standard: “We’ve cut our own supplies here to let people in but we’re willing to do that because we don’t want to see these people on the street, it isn’t fair.
“We got as much food as we could, but they’ve been gouging the prices and I think that people without much money have been stuck. For a bottle of water the shops were putting it up to $8-$10 but they were normally $1. The fact that people are trying to make money out of it is just awful.”
But Danny Lyons, sheltering at the house, said he had seen “worse rain in Manchester”.
Mr Lyons, who had travelled out to Florida for work, added: “To be honest, it’s been a massive anticlimax.”
Former University of Birmingham student Stephanie Fonteyn, who lives in Miami with her husband Sebastian and son Theo, eight, managed to leave the city an hour before the mandatory evacuation.
The family are sheltering in a friend’s holiday villa in Davenport, located inland between Orlando and Tampa. The artist, originally from Switzerland, was glad to be out of Miami but was “panicked” by the situation.
She said: “On Saturday I was so panicked by it all that I felt like I was going to vomit everywhere.
“We feel anxious but we feel okay where we are at the moment — but it’s a waiting game. It feels like it’s been going on forever.
“I have family and friends all over Europe and they’re all really worried.
“In some ways it’s worse for them watching it from so far away feeling they can do nothing, so they’re very anxious as well.”
London News & Search