Bethlehem Press

Friday, December 13, 2019
Press photos courtesy of the Pagel familyTiffany, Gavin, Brayden and Scott Pagel with Pluto at Chef Mickey in Disney World days after Hurricane Matthew hit Florida Oct. 7. Press photos courtesy of the Pagel familyTiffany, Gavin, Brayden and Scott Pagel with Pluto at Chef Mickey in Disney World days after Hurricane Matthew hit Florida Oct. 7.
Fortunately there wasn’t much storm damage at the Disney’s All-Star Sport Resort during the Oct. 7 hurricane. Fortunately there wasn’t much storm damage at the Disney’s All-Star Sport Resort during the Oct. 7 hurricane.

‘It could have been a lot worse for us’ - Hurricane Matthew hits vacation for LV Press editor

Monday, October 17, 2016 by ZACH HOTTINGER Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

What happens when a hurricane interrupts your family vacation?

Scott Pagel, sports editor of the Bethlehem, Catasauqua, Northampton, and Whitehall editions of the Lehigh Valley Press, was on vacation with his family from Oct. 5 through Oct. 12 at the Disney All-Star Sports Resort in Orlando during the time Hurricane Matthew was projected to hit Florida before moving up the East Coast.

The storm formed Sept. 28 and dissipated Oct. 10, leaving 13 days of destruction in its wake. Matthew was the first category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007, It hit Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic before shirting parts of the southeastern United States.

“I actually heard about the hurricane a few days before it made the turn north in the Caribbean.” Scott said. “I was only a little concerned then looking at all the tracks, and remember mumbling to myself ‘That figures.’

“At that point, it was so far out no one seemed to know anything for certain,” Scott said.

With all the stresses of packing and getting ready and wondering how his nearly 5-year-old twin boys would handle their first plane ride, Scott said he didn’t have a lot of time to worry about it.

“I never flew into Orlando before, let alone with two toddlers, and I wasn’t sure where to go or where to find our bus to the resort, and things like that. So I was more stressed about that stuff.”

With the storm’s eventual approach to the United States, several states declared a state of emergency. Matthew was set to hit Florida the night of Oct. 6 after passing through the Bahamas.

“The day before it hit was great,” Scott said. “On Thursday, we went to Magic Kingdom and had little to no wait for anything. We got in two days’ worth of rides that one day.

“They eventually announced the park would close at 5p.m. on Thursday and would be closed all day on Friday,” he said. “We kept getting texts from family and friends. Most were concerned, but some made fun of me because Disney had only closed three times before this, so this was a pretty rare thing to be a part of which kind of summed up how serious things were becoming with each updated forecast.”

According to Scott, people were just simply trying to make the most of their vacation before the storm hit.

“People really didn’t seem panicked at all,” Scott said. “On the bus back to the resort, we talked to a family that was driving home to North Carolina that night (Thursday). For the most part, I saw no signs of people in panic and fleeing the resort. I hardly even overheard people talk about it which I found kind of strange.”

Over 1 million homes lost power in Florida as the storm passed through with close to 500,000 losing power in Georgia and South Carolina. As the storm moved north, torrential rains spread inland in the both the Carolinas and Virgina, which has caused widespread flooding, an ongoing struggle for parts of the states.

But power and flooding were not concerns for the Pagel family.

“The big issue was the food court in the resort,” Scott explained. “Rumors were that it would also be closed on Friday and that was a worry because I think most people who flew in, including us, didn’t have a lot of food with them and were depending on meal plans. If the food court was closed, a lot of people would be out of luck.”

Scott and his wife discussed options and decided it would be a good idea for Scott to take an Uber to one of the nearby grocery stores for simple items including lunch meat, milk, water, and bread.

“On the way to the grocery store, it was pouring rain and there was traffic and here I am in a car with a stranger trying to go a few miles to a store,” Scott said. “Then it hit me. There may be nothing at this grocery store to even buy at this point. Everyone was probably after the same things I was.

“But, I was able to get everything except bread, had to settle for hot dog rolls. But I did get a case of beer,” Scott joked. “The Uber driver waited the whole time, even with long lines at checkout. Eventually, I was on my way back to the resort. It was a big relief knowing we’d have something to eat for the next day.”

It is estimated that thus far the storm has accounted for 39 deaths in the United States with property damages estimated in excess of $10 billion, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Still, the storm didn’t seem to affect the Disney World Resort much.

“It turned out it really wasn’t that bad,” Scott said. “There were some wind gusts and rain but honestly where I was there weren’t any issue and (it) didn’t seem like a hurricane. We got pretty lucky.”

Around 2 p.m. Friday, the family wandered out of the room to check out the resort and walk around, They found most things were wrapped up.

“We probably could have been more prepared, but since we just got down there, we really didn’t have the time until last minute,” Scott said.

“Because there was a hurricane warning, we could have been refunded for our trip but opted to ride it out. We were pretty lucky especially when you see the damage it caused in other places. That may not have been the best decision, but we were fortunate it worked out.”

The remainder of the Pagel family trip was a success and the family returned to the Lehigh Valley safe and sound Oct. 12.

“It actually didn’t rain again until a small shower the night before we left,” Scott said. “The kids had a great time meeting all the characters and going on rides and weren’t phased by the hurricane whatsoever.

“The worst part of the storm for us was keeping the kids entertained,” he said smiling. “So all things considered, it could have been a lot worse for all of us.”

Those interested in helping those affected by Hurricane Matthew can donate to the American Red Cross by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or by texting the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Editor’s note: My wife and I visited our youngest son, Michael, in Miami the weekend before the storm hit the mainland. We planned a long weekend and took Michael with us to Key West. It is a beautiful drive from Miami to Key West, but on the way back to the city on Monday, I said I wondered if the road -- U.S. 1 -- could really handle an evacuation if it were needed. Fortunately, it wasn’t. Mary Ruth and I flew out of Miami Monday evening. Once home, we continued to watch the Weather Channel’s coverage of the approaching storm. Of course we were concerned about our son’s safety. He lives in Miami Beach about eight blocks from the ocean. Mary Ruth made sure Michael did some shopping and had plenty of food and water on hand. He didn’t need it. It got windy and rained heavily but that was the extent of the storm in Miami. Michael had posted on his Facebook page “I’m about ready to experience my first hurricane.” My wife and I hope it’s also his last.