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CN Oct252015 One Person

Hurricane Patricia At The Resort - First Hand Account

October 25, 2015

An Aimfair member asked the question on the Forum: "What is Vidanta's evacuation policy?" This question was asked during the period when the storm was taking aim at an area that could include Puerto Vallarta and no one was availalbe to answer that question.

Coincidentally, Mr. Clem Murray was in Nuevo Vallarta spending the week at the Grand Mayan. He is a staff photographer for The Inquirer in Philadelphia, PA.

The evacuation shelter for the Grand Mayan Resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
The evacuation shelter for the Grand Mayan Resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Here is his first hand account of what took place on October 23, 2015 as Hurricane Patricia made its way to the coast of Mexico:

Gallery: Hurricane Journal: In the sights of a Category 5

Clem Murray, INQUIRER PHOTOGRAPHER
Last updated: Saturday, October 24, 2015, 1:07 AM
Posted: Friday, October 23, 2015, 4:27 PM
Inquirer photographer Clem Murray, on vacation at a Mexican resort, has suddenly found himself and a companion stuck in the path of Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Here is his account:

NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico - Our first inkling that something was up was Thursday afternoon on our way to the beach and we saw the staff filling sandbags. We got settled under a tiki hut and soon our waiter, Pedro, came over for our cerveza order. We asked what's up with the sandbags, and he replied: "A hurricane is coming!"

What a way to end a vacation!

After we were kicked off the beach at 3 p.m., we went back to our room at the Grand Mayan Resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and turned on CNN. Not only was Hurricane Patricia bearing down on the west coast of Mexico but it quickly turned into a category 5. Oh boy!

We read as much as we could on the Internet and learned that landfall wouldn't be until four hours after our plane was scheduled to take off the next day. Great. We might have a chance of heading home before all hell breaks loose.

Sleeping Thursday night was pointless, a combination of the rich dinner we ate in Puerto Vallarta and nervousness over the approaching storm. We got out of bed at 6 a.m. and checked our email. Sure enough, our flight back to Philadelphia was canceled. A quick conference about our next plan ensued.

Renting a car and trying to outrun the historic storm didn't seem like a good idea since my Spanish is of the basic high school variety. Besides we don't know the area at all, nor the conditions of the roads - we didn't travel on any interstate highways during our week stay. And all the locals would be trying to evacuate as well.

No, we decided to stay put at the resort. We're on the sixth floor, but facing the ocean. Not good but at least we'll be above the storm surge. We decided to make a quick trip to the little food market on the premises, and unlike going to Wawa before a snowstorm, there was actually lots of food and water on the shelves!

Midmorning we were alerted that the Grand Mayan building was going to be evacuated at 2 p.m. so start packing your bags - and put them in the bathtub for safekeeping. Just bring valuables with us.

Looking out the window of our room at 1:30 p.m. the waters of Banderis Bay in front of our resort are the calmest it's been all week. The proverbial "calm before the storm." My companion, Sue Sampson, and I went out so I could take photos around the complex and found three people from Delaware County walking the beach. Small world. The hotel lobby was getting full when we returned. People didn't seem too anxious. Everyone was wondering how safe the building we were being evacuated to could be since it was only 100 meters inland from the resort. Someone said it was a four-story, concrete parking garage and the guests will be on the third and fourth floors. Now that sounds like fun!

We left our room a little after 2 p.m. and were escorted about 100 yards to the back of the Grand Mayan, to an immense concrete building that looked like a parking garage, rising five levels. The building indeed housed cars but was also home to numerous departments of the Vidanta Resorts, including the executive offices, accounting, telemarketing, and one level for the maintenance department.

Sue and I decided to head to the highest floor used for the shelter, the fourth, figuring that certainly would be high enough above any storm surge that might occur with the historic hurricane. We walked around the floor a couple of times and found a place to wedge ourselves, and then went in search of pool lounge chairs, which were being distributed as beds. After an hour of waiting, we secured two chairs, sheets, and pillows.

Time to hunker down in the face of Patricia.

I walked around the shelter taking photos of all the people crammed into every corner, hallway, and room in the building. I found the executive suite of office space - it was air-conditioned. Those evacuees found a really nice spot - Sue and I were on the maintenance floor with fans blowing! I stumbled upon the cafeteria used for the employees, in full operation feeding close to one thousand people. Amazing.

After capturing some representative images, I sat down with my computer to edit my take and file pix back to the paper for deadline. But no luck. Try as I might, I couldn't get a connection to the Internet with computer or cellphone. Some computer genius named Frank, who developed weapons systems for the Pentagon, tried to help me, to no avail. So I closed down and went back to my shelter bed to hunker down for the night.

Then all of a sudden a voice came over a loudspeaker on my floor, speaking both Spanish and English, saying that "Someone above protected the Nuevo and Puerto Vallarta resort area" as the fury of Hurricane Patricia missed us. Applause and cheers erupted.

After seven hours, we could go back to our rooms, to real beds and air-conditioning. And as a nice touch by the resort, they greeted the weary tourists with margaritas, rum punch, beers, and little chocolates.

Read more by going to http://www.philly.com and searching for Clem Murray.

So, now we know....we are in good hands. Evacuation plans are in place and the shelter is sufficient to house over 3,000 guests and employees. We can now check the question of what would we do in the event a hurricane hit the resort.
Stay tuned....this event is over but there are likely to be more things to discuss in the future....
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