Wrights evacuate Turks, Caicos from Hurricane Irma

MADISON – Mary Lynne Wright will never forget her 60th birthday celebration, unfortunately shortened by an uninvited guest — Hurricane Irma.

For her birthday, Wright was enjoying a family vacation at the Turks and Caicos with husband Merrill, daughters Savannah and Merrill Elizabeth and Savannah,” friend Tyler Chaffee.

“We have traveled to other Caribbean islands and this year decided to try Turks. I had heard many wonderful things about Turks — how beautiful the island is, great snorkeling and scuba diving,” Mary Lynne said.

On Sept. 2, they reached their Air B&B house on Providenciales Island. Intending to stay until Sept. 9, they were forced to evacuate Sept. 6.

The Wrights weren’t concerned about the weather. “I did the ‘it-won’t-happen-to-us’ thinking, which was obviously a major mistake, seeing as this is hurricane season,” Mary Lynne said.

On Providenciales Island, they didn’t have television or Internet service for two days, unrelated to weather. “We weren’t actually paying attention but enjoying the island, crystal-clear water and pristine beaches,” she said.

On Sept. 4, they started paying attention and heard that officials might classify the hurricane as a first-ever Category 6. Relatives and friends texted and posted on Facebook to warn them to leave.

“County Commissioner Dale Strong contacted me and was in communication with the State Department and Senator Shelby’s office to determine if American citizens would be evacuated,” Wright said. “I appreciate his help so much. Because five of us were traveling, it was problematic trying to get reservations to get off the island.”

The storm’s severity was obvious. “Putting yourself in harm’s way is one thing; putting your children in harm’s way is different,” she said.

All flights were booked with no additional, incoming planes scheduled. “Once I heard Cat 6 and we were in the direct path, we knew it was time to try to get out,” Mary Lynne said. They finally flew out Sept. 6.

Ironically, the weather was perfect when they left — nice breeze, blue skies, temperature in the 80s. “We did have to fly around one storm, but the flight could not have been better. We weren’t nervous because we were on our way home,” Wright said.

Their Air B&B’s owner, a Canadian, flew with them to Huntsville and on to Atlanta and Montreal. “He was very happy we were there. My husband helped him secure his two homes,” she said.

“The home we were in did sustain damage from blown-out windows, flooding but nothing catastrophic. We were fortunate to get out before the storm hit,” Wright said.

The homeowner and Wright are communicating about assistance for Caicos’ people. “Caicos isn’t a U.S. territory so cash donations will be problematic. It’s heartbreaking to realize so many islanders are in dire straits. It’s such a friendly, welcoming island,” she said.

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