Colorado senior citizens stranded in freak Hawaiian storm

11:17 PM, Mar 7, 2012   |    comments
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Mike Young sleeping on the floor at the Hawaii airport.


"The rain actually looked like waves of snow. It was coming down so hard. And that's when the flooding really started to hit the whole island," Mike Young said.

When Mike Young called Hawaiian Airlines, he was told their flight on Monday would leave as scheduled.

They checked out of their hotel, went to Kauai's Lihue Airport and waited for hours until learning just after midnight that all flights were cancelled and the airport was closing.

Georgia Young says, by that time, all the hotels were booked and cab service had ended. She says they asked to stay at the airport but a security guard told them, and others in their group, they had to leave immediately.

"[The guard said], 'We will call the police and have your forcibly removed,'" Georgia Young said.

They say they were forced to stand in the sidewalk in the middle of the night, drenched and without their luggage and medications which had already been checked-in.

"Here we're standing in the rain that's so hard the planes can't function, but we're supposed to function out there somehow," Mike Young said.

Both of them are in their 70s and say they were helped by a passing firefighter, who directed them to a Red Cross shelter.

All the beds in the shelter were full so they both slept under a blanket on the concrete floor, soaking wet.

"They felt bad about putting us on the floor. I mean, you'd feel bad about putting an old lady on the floor," Georgia Young said.

Hours later, they caught a flight to the Honolulu airport where they were stranded for another 15 hours before finally catching a flight home to Littleton.

They arrived late Wednesday morning.

"We're so glad to be home. Just to be dry," Georgia Young said.

Dan Meisenzahl is spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, which oversees the Lihue Airport.

"We are actively looking into this. Our hearts go out to them and we're really sorry about the situation. It sounds like a number of things came into effect. It was like a perfect storm unfortunately. We really believe that things could have been handled differently. It's a regrettable situation and we're going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again," Meisenzahl said.

Keoni Wagner is the vice president for public affairs of Hawaiian Airlines.

"In a situation like this we just do everything we can to try and help our customers and we did that and we hope that our customers would agree. It's just an unfortunate natural disaster, not to overplay it, but it was a pretty freak storm that hit Kauai and when something like that happens you just make the best of it with what you have. Our people showed empathy for our customers and did what they could. From the airline's standpoint we did everything we could, including communicating with civil defense," Wagner said.

The Youngs believe the airport should have had a better plan in place to handle a natural disaster like the storm that hit Kauai and the island of Oahu.

"Somebody dropped the ball," Georgia Young said.

Hawaii's governor declared a disaster for the two islands after days of relentless rains.

"Hopefully they'll learn from this. That we'll know how to give you some answers next time," Mike Young said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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