Families of American tourists in Mexico have been desperately waiting to hear that their loved ones — left stranded because of Hurricane Odile — are on flights headed home. For Jean Keno, her bride-to-be daughter and six other members of their bachelorette party, traveling Wednesday to Fresno, California, was a welcomed relief that meant their harrowing ordeal was finally over.
“We are eight lucky, lucky women,” Keno told NBC News on Thursday. “We’re blessed — truly blessed. We got to sleep in our own beds last night. I got to hug my husband.”
The women watched helplessly as Odile battered their Baja hotel and the rest of Cabo San Lucas late Sunday. Information was scant, cellphone service was spotty and their hotel became a makeshift shelter. “At one point, my husband was able to text a picture of the (Los Cabos) airport and we all started crying,” Keno said. The 125-mile-per-hour winds shattered the terminal’s windows and caused the ceiling to collapse. Flights were canceled Sunday and Monday, and the earliest ones out through their airline were scheduled for Wednesday.
Keno, who had never experienced a hurricane, said she sat at the Villa Del Arco hotel with her daughter, Morgan, and her friends hoping for the best. The Villa Del Arco had a generator and it wasn’t as devastated as other properties, which meant guests at neighboring hotels sought shelter there. Keno said she was amazed by the outpouring of aid — particularly from the hotel workers who didn’t go home.
“They took really great care of us. They put us in a shelter. We had sandwiches, we had water. We felt safe (despite reports of looting),” Keno said.
On Wednesday, when their flight was rescheduled, the women decided to take their chances at the airport. A taxi driver at the hotel offered to shuttle them despite the dangerous road conditions and crumbling infrastructure. “He said, ‘I will not leave you,’” Keno recalled of the taxi driver’s kindness.
An estimated 30,000 tourists were stranded by Odile, and about 5,000 of them were flown out Wednesday, authorities said. The women were able to catch an Alaska Airlines flight to San Diego. Relieved passengers chanted “USA!” and finally got cellphone reception once they landed in California. Keno and the other women later found out that their plight to get home had become the subject of media attention, which she called “embarrassing.” “It’s not about us,” Keno said. “It’s about those people in Cabo San Lucas who no longer have homes or running water.”
While trapped by the storm in Mexico, Keno said, she started a collection for the hotel workers because she was so moved by their decision to hunker down and stay. “People think of this as a resort town, but there are real people who live there,” she added.
Keno said she hopes Americans realize that the devastation will be ongoing for residents of Cabo San Lucas.
“There are remarkable people there, and they need our help,” she said.
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