Two Oswego State alumni rode out Hurricane Irma this week while at work in Disney World in Florida.
Paul Valentino, who graduated in May 2016 with a degree in broadcasting, and Gayle Schiller, who graduated in December 2016 with a broadcasting and mass communication degree, both work at Disney World and were in the nearby areas of Florida as Hurricane Irma hit.
Schiller, who is at Disney after extending her college internship program by six months, knew of people working at the park during the severe weather.
“We had cast members signing up for ride-out crews, meaning we would stay the night at one of the resorts or parks cleaning and putting sandbags everywhere and giving food and such to guests,” Schiller said.
Valentino was working at the Disney Pop Century resort when the storm hit the area. He was selected for the ride-out crews, who were tasked with maintaining the parks and entertaining guests during the storm.
“We clocked in Saturday at noon at our resort, ran the normal check-in and guest assistance operation until we went on lockdown for the hurricane,” Valentino said.
Orange County went on lockdown when the main body of Hurricane Irma passed, meaning that no residents of the area or guests at the resorts were allowed to leave their accommodations.
Valentino said that he saw about 2,000 extensions on room rentals canceled flights.
“It was non-stop organized chaos in the lobby,” Valentino said.
As for preparation, the storm was expected in the Orlando area Friday, but did not hit in earnest until Monday. The alerts that the storm would be coming to Orlando had been sent out as early as the previous Tuesday, so people had almost a full week to prepare.
“I was in Wal-Mart on the day of the announcement [of the storm], and I bought one of the last cases of water and non-perishables,” Valentino said.
The Disney resorts and parks were prepared for the storm, having closed beforehand and having set up a list of people.
Schiller said she decided to stay in the Orlando area even though she was not on a ride-out crew at the parks.
“I chose not to [go home] because I felt safer here,” Schiller said. “It might have been easy to go home, but getting a flight back to New York might be hard.”
The Disney parks reopened following the storm with minimal damage, according to Valentino.
“We are back to standard operation, but still dealing with the aftermath of guests missing park days, missing flights and refunding anyone who needs to leave early,” Valentino said.
Graphic: Rachel Futterman | The Oswegonian