Hurricane Sandy's assault on East Coast leaves Floridians stranded

Floridians know hurricanes.

They stock up on water and food, fill their gas tanks and stow the patio furniture inside when a storm packing high gusts and torrential rains comes to town.

"I'm prepared 24/7, 365 days a year," said Debbie Alaimo, 58, of St. Petersburg.

Many traveling Floridians found themselves stranded and unprepared across the East Coast on Monday as Hurricane Sandy churned toward them, bringing heavy rains and storm surge.

Alaimo traveled to Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday to spend time with family.

"Our first days here were absolutely awesome," she said.

But along came Sandy.

Over the weekend, the family had planned to rake leaves into huge piles for the kids and drink cider and eat doughnuts. The gathering was canceled.

Instead, Alaimo urged her Rochester relatives to prepare for the incoming storm.

"I had to tell them they needed batteries. They needed to fill their tubs with water to flush their toilets. They had to fill their cars with gas," she said.

On Monday, Alaimo arrived at Rochester International Airport and braced herself for bad news. Instead, she was able to catch a flight back home.

Also in New York, Sue Lang, of Treasure Island, found herself stranded in Long Island awaiting the storm.

She and some friends arrived there Thursday to visit wineries and enjoy the autumnal weather.

Lang received a text message Sunday from Southwest Airlines. Her Monday morning flight home was canceled.

"I had a really anxious moment yesterday," Lang said. "I need to just give up and have a martini."

She works as a hairdresser and was forced to cancel several appointments. Her new flight is scheduled to leave this afternoon.

On Monday, Lang peered through a window of the house she is staying in and watched the trees sway.

The patio furniture was still outside. "It's such a different mind-set," she said. "At home, all my chairs would be stacked together and tied to trees."

Farther south in Swarthmore, Pa., Steve Glass, of Dade City, was visiting his in-laws with his wife when Sandy emerged.

His Southwest Airlines flight was scheduled for Monday morning. Now he's scheduled to leave Wednesday afternoon.

This isn't the first time Glass found himself away from home during a storm. During Tropical Storm Debby, he was driving back to Dade City from Richmond, Va., when the roads were drenched in rain for several hours. During Hurricane Isaac, his flight from Nashville was rescheduled.

"It's kind of ironic," Glass said.

In Fredericksburg, Va., Betty Persons was also stranded.

She left Pensacola to babysit her grandchildren and was scheduled to leave this morning for Tampa Bay to babysit another grandchild.

Instead, she made calls to Delta Air Lines on Monday to figure out her flight options and helped her other daughter store 10 chickens in a bathroom.

"It's crazy. I'm from Florida. I have hurricanes all the time," Persons said.

"Never expected it up here."

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 893-8713, or lmorel@tampabay.com.

Hurricane Sandy's assault on East Coast leaves Floridians stranded 10/29/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 7:59pm]

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