May 28, 2022


As hurricane Irma blew through the Caribbean numerous people were quickly evacuated to avoid any injury. One Conestoga student, Juan Buitrago, was swept up in this event, cutting his vacation short.

The third-year electronic systems engineering student’s trip to the Dominican Republic was derailed by the incoming hurricane, forcing his family to leave early because of the potential threat that Irma would come too close to their side of the island.

With wind speeds of up to 130 m.p.h., Irma was rated as a category four hurricane as it blew through the Dominican Republic.

“We were in the pool enjoying ourselves when a man approached us. He was an Air Canada representative and he told us we needed to leave as soon as possible because our hotel was being evacuated,” said Buitrago.

After being told to leave, Buitrago and his family packed their things and waited for a bus that would take them to the airport where they could board planes leaving as soon as they were full. As they waited more and more people packed into the airport and planes started taking off.

Buitrago’s mother, Claudia Osorio, said, “I was very nervous arriving at the airport and I thought, ‘What if we don’t get on a plane or what if we are too late and can’t take off, but mostly will my children be OK.”’

As they waited they quickly realized they would not be able to board a plane to Toronto, but instead to Montreal because all the planes returning to Toronto were full.

After waiting five hours for his fight to take off Buitrago and his family made it safely to Montreal where they boarded another plane to Toronto. They waited another hour before being able to fly home.

“The wait was ridiculous but at least we all got home safely. If there is one thing I can say it’s that the airport staff were on top of their game getting everyone where they needed to be as quickly and calmly as possible. I think this really helped anyone who was stressing about their situation,” Buitrago said.

He laughed about how he was more worried at the time about the wait than actually worrying about the incoming storm.

“I think the fact that the staff remained normal made it feel like it was just a regular day trying to catch a plane home.”

Despite their vacation being cut short, Buitrago and his family said they are not afraid of travelling again and have already planned their next trip to the Dominican Republic for next year with the hope that the weather will favour a more relaxing and fun stay.

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