Tewkesbury Times - American Hurricane
ON arriving in America, we didn't expect to be stranded for an extra week because of the country's largest hurricane – Frankenstorm.
For the first week, everything went to plan as we stayed with our host families and visited landmarks in New Jersey and New York.
But this all changed as our trip was scheduled to come to an end.
And little did we know our experience with Sandy was just the beginning.
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First, we were told our flight home was cancelled due to serious weather conditions, which brought mixed views within the group – although we wanted to see our families again, it was lovely to stay with our newly-adopted families for a little bit longer.
When the storm hit on Monday evening, the town was prepared for this disaster.
People stocked up with food, water and gas, outside furniture was brought inside and Halloween was cancelled.
After darkness fell, the rains got heavier and the winds grew stronger. It was hard to imagine what was happening outside our homes.
At one point, we could see green flashes lighting the sky which the next morning were revealed to be power stations being flooded and setting off explosions.
The houses began to creak as the hurricane got closer and soon we lost power, which we wouldn't see again for another seven days.
In the morning, what had happened during the night became clear.
Even large, mature trees had been uprooted, some falling down across roads, into buildings and onto power lines.
This left some students became trapped with no access to major roads.
Luckily early preparation for the storm meant baths had been filled with water (for flushing toilets), flashlights were quickly to hand and there was enough fuel to generate necessary power.
This allowed us to be comfortable for the duration of our extra stay, even though we had to crack out the winter wear to keep warm.
But it was not long before trees were cleared and work on the power lines began.
With little to do without power, we spent the majority of the time playing board games and cards by candlelight, which gave us the opportunity to get to know our host families better.
Some students were lucky enough to still have power at this time, while others could harness power through a neighbour's generator.
Their homes became sanctuaries for warm showers and charging essential electrical devices.
News of the destruction within New York City and the coastal areas of New Jersey made us feel grateful for what we still had and how lucky we were that the damage wasn't more severe.
Having been in New York a few days prior to Sandy's arrival, it was hard to imagine one of the world's great cities submerged by floodwater.
Our journey home was more eventful than planned, as we were split into three smaller groups, flying home on different days.
This trip to America turned in an unforgettable experience of a classic, once-in-a-lifetime trip and one we will cherish forever.