Del Mar couple rides out Hurricane Irma on St. Maarten

Posted at 6:32 PM, Sep 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-07 21:32:52-04

(KGTV) - Del Mar vacationers Mark and Karen Wheelan say they're "still standing."  They're now sharing pictures of the craziness of Hurricane Irma.

The couple booked a suite at the Bel Air Hotel on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean.  The airport has been closed since Tuesday.  They have quote-- "Nowhere to go."

Mark posted on Facebook that the hotel is "all cement" and has hurricane shields across all the archways; it's located in a small valley on the bay, giving some wind protection.

They're "on the 4th floor, the top. Floor 1 was evacuated to higher floors due to 10-15' seas predicted."

He said Irma started as rain with some good wind about 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday.      The power went out about 3:00; auxiliary generators then kicking in.

The strong part of the hurricane started about 5:00 a.m. and got ugly about 5:30. They then moved to the bunker (aka - the bathtub) with the door closed. He described the wind noise as "like a jet engine when taking off. But not continuous. 2-10 seconds, a stutter, then another 3-5 second blast.  That was till about 6:15.

The building shook with the worst winds but never felt unstable to the Wheelans.

It calmed down for awhile, then came the second phase and back to the bunker.

The aux generator quit just after 7:30 AM.  They then used $2 LED flashlights they'd packed.

Mark told of sustained rocking til about 8:30 or 9:00, with rain and wind all day, til about 5 p.m..

He said if the building started to come apart the "Hail Mary" was to retreat to the kitchen into a huge under-counter cabinet.

They both fit.  And he wrote "if the roof came down  MAYBE it might save us. Whaddaiknow?"

He called the Bel Air a fortress; the best place to be for that storm. But again, "whaddaiknow?"

After going through that, he concluded "I have no smart comments, no spiking the football".  Simply "Thank you, God."