We were due to spend 8 days 7 nights in beautiful Cancun, Mexico. Being aware that October is prime hurricane season for the Caribbean at the beachregion, we were careful to monitor the Weather Channel daily during the week before our departure. If anything looked threatening, we were protected by a 72 hour cancellation clause in our package.

It was Wednesday night. In less than seventy-two hours we would be sprawled out on a white sand beach basking in the warm Caribbean sun. A quick check on the Weather Channel showed clear skies over Cancun, 86 degrees, and nothing threatening. Our vacation was a go!

It's now Thursday, and 48 hours till departure. We turn the television on and flip passed the Weather Channel. Interesting! A red dot had appeared on the weather map several clock countdownhundred miles south of Cancun. Perhaps it's nothing. Too late to cancel anyway. Given a few hours, perhaps it will simply disappear. No such luck. By evening, they were designating it as, 'Tropical Storm Keith'.

We were now less than 24 hours from departure. Tropical Storm Keith had increased to 75 mph winds and as a result had been classified as a category one Hurricane. It was currently 300 miles south of Cancun and tracking more west than north. That's good, if you're an optimist.

The Day of Departure:
The day of departure was at hand. It was a tough decision. The hurricane, still several hundred miles south of Cancun was still tracking more west than north. This was positive. And, since the vacation was all paid for and we were unable to cancel, we decided to take our chances in hopes it would shoot passed. Bon voyage!

The Arrival:
It was a 3 1/2 hour flight from Denver, then 15 minutes by shuttle to the resort. Upon arrival at the resort, things began to get interesting. One could not help but notice the truckloads of plywood being delivered out front. As we entered the lobby and could view the seaside of the building, it was less amusing to notice that all the windows were being boarded up by construction/maintenance workers. When we reached the front desk to check-in, the first thing we were handed was a sheet of paper with all the airline phone numbers on it. This did not look good. The caption at the top of the sheet read: "Please contact an airline and arrange for the first possible flight out". Seems Hurricane Hurricane manKeith's winds had increased to 135 miles per hour and it had now been upgraded to a category 4 hurricane. It was now 300 miles due south of us and beginning to turn north.

The Best Possible Scenario:
We headed up to our ocean view room to contemplate the situation. Should Hurricane Keith continue tracking far enough west and miss Cancun directly, there would still be lots of wind and rain. The hotel had already begun to board-up the upper level floors of the building with plywood, and they had anchored all the outdoor chairs and umbrellas to the bottom of the pool. The surf was heavy and had begun to swell. It was beginning to rain intermittently, and the winds had picked up dramatically. This was NOT the vacation we had envisioned.

The Worst Case Scenario:
evacuation noticeShould the hurricane begin it's track northward, it would come directly over Cancun. In that case, we were told they would evacuate all 20,000 vacationers off the Cancun hotel strip. We would end up inland, be given a pillow and a blanket, and most likely spend the next 4 days on a school gymnasium floor with thousands of other tourists. If you were lucky enough to make it back to the resort by week's end, you would most likely be without running water and electricity.

The Decision:
We sat in our room and discussed our two options. I glanced out the window just in time to see a bird pointed south flying north. Either that was a very talented bird, or it was becoming extremely windy outside. Needless to say, we made our decision, "WE'RE OUT OF HERE!" We called and made arrangements to catch the first available flight out. All we could get was a 6:15 p.m. flight heading for Los Angeles the following hurricane keithevening on Mexicana Airlines. We took it!

Prepare for Takeoff:
By 6:15 p.m. Sunday night, the eye of Hurricane Keith was 150 miles south of us at Belize. It had made land and the surge had swelled to 10 feet. The entire bay at Belize had been sucked out to sea and people were walking across it despite the warnings from local authorities. Fifteen to twenty inches of rain was due in the next 24 hours.

The rain was coming down in sheets at the Cancun International Airport.  Twenty or so planes were sitting full on the tarmac each waiting their turn to depart.  Every twenty minutes or so the torrential rains would break long enough to allow a couple of planes to take off. Finally, it was our turn. Everyone on board became deathly quiet as the plane roared down the runway. I looked out my window and saw on overwhelming flood of water being sucked into the engines turbine. The only perplexing thought on my mind was, how much water would it take to stall a 727 engine?

Beyond Harms Way:
We arrived in LA around 10 p.m. that night. With a full week of vacation left, and still plenty of room on the old charge card, we decided to make the most of our holiday. We headed for the rental car counter, rented a convertible, and by 3 a.m. we were standing on the front porch of our relatives in central California.

We had a great (and relaxing) three days in California. We even got to visit the Fresno County Fair that was happening that week. We then began our 1200 mile trek east to get back to Colorado. This of course took us through Las Vegas where we spent three vegas dicedays catching some long awaited sun under the palms at the Mirage. At this point, we had just about killed off what was left on my charge card, and Saturday morning we took off to return to Denver.

We spent the last day of our three legged journey driving home. We arrived home safely and are now awaiting all the credit card bills we accumulated during our jet-set week (i.e. two last minute airline tickets from Cancun to LA, a one-way car rental from LA to Denver plus the gas, the Mirage hotel along with miscellaneous Vegas expenses).

A final word (of advice) for those who find themselves in a similar situation - Make the most of your situation, enjoy yourself to the max, but do not rent a vehicle one-way. There was a additional $$$ premium above and beyond the rental price of the car for not returning it to the rental place of origin. Surprise!

Return to welcome page


Copyright © 2001 - 2015 by Michael Hensley. All rights reserved.