Family endures harrowing hurricane ordeal

NORTH DELTA – On the night before Hurricane Odile struck the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas, North Delta’s Brad Lutz thought the strong winds and light rain was a little “exciting.”

He went to sleep that night in the safety and comfort of his ground floor hotel room alongside his two young children and sister. After a week of fun in the sun, they were due to return to Canada the next day, on Monday, Sept. 15.

It wasn’t until they awoke the next morning that they discovered their beds had become rafts in a disaster zone so vast that 13 million Mexicans were without power.

Vacationers waded from their hotel rooms in bewilderment and began searching for higher ground in no small state of panic.

“You ever see the movie of the Titanic when the ship sinks? It was just like that, to describe it,” said Lutz, who was even more concerned with his son Braedon, 9, and daughter Joelle, 5, in tow.

Nobody from the Rio Sante Fe resort was there to help guests with the evacuation.

Workers had all gone home to their families, or what was left of their homes after the Twitter @adrianmacnair See photos online, at strongest hurricane to make landfall in Baja California Sur since 1967 had passed through.

“They abandoned everybody. There was no information for two days. There was no workers.”

Lutz went to the fourth floor to find safety and stake out a spot in the hallway where they could sleep. He returned to the ground floor to assist with elderly people and families with babies.

By Tuesday, food and water in the hotel had nearly run out. Hotel guests began going room to room, looking through refrigerators for nourishment, and finding nothing left.

“You’ve got a thousand people there in a resort,” recalled Lutz. “You go the washroom wherever you can. Everything is flooded, broken. It was a disaster zone.”

Eventually, the guests waded through the flooded streets to higher ground to find water at another hotel.

Lutz was forced to go in search of food from any market that might be open. Abandoned animals were everywhere, as dogs, horses and chickens were left to fend for themselves, nearby homes smashed into tiny pieces.

One stray dog even bit Lutz as he passed by, requiring a visit to the hospital once he arrived back in Canada.

Eventually he found a corner store without power selling canned goods. He arrived back to his children with canned corn, beans and some crackers.

Meanwhile, back in North Delta, frantic mother Candice Zingle had been living next to her iPad for four days straight. She had talked to her children, Braedon and Joelle, every day on FaceTime, but had been unable to contact anybody since the hurricane hit.

On Wednesday, she went to the airport in Vancouver in the hopes a plane would arrive with her family. She was turned away after being told no flights were leaving the country yet.

Zingle said up until that point, the kids had told her they were having a wonderful week, fishing in the Pacific Ocean and swimming with the dolphins. They were due to arrive back in Canada on Monday. Hurricane Odile had other plans.

“And then it just went from a wonderful holiday to a terrible holiday,” she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Lutz said they received word a plane would be leaving Mexico back to Vancouver. However, the hotel guests were still stranded in the flood zone. A group of people, including Lutz, gathered pickaxes, shovels and anything else they could find to knock down a retaining wall so they could build a makeshift road, allowing vans to shuttle people to higher ground.

Sunwing Vacations managed to corral the guests and bring them to Greyhound buses that transported them to the airport. Lutz, his sister, and his children, arrived back in Canada on Thursday morning.

Despite the ordeal, and a lack of proper showering for four days, the family is no worse for wear.

“I asked them if they would ever want to go back to Mexico again and they said, ‘Not during hurricane season,'” said Zingle, laughing.

She’s just happy everybody’s back in North Delta, safe and sound.