A Mississauga couple is thankful to have escaped Hurricane Irma‘s path in the Dominican Republic although it has come at the expense of their plans for a destination wedding.
“If our plans had gone the way we wanted to, we’d be getting married on the beach… with all our friends and family,” said bride-to-be Vanessa Orzechowski.
The couple, wary of the potential for a storm but hoping for the best, were joined by a wedding party of 33 people in Punta Cana earlier this week.
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It was the couple’s second attempt at a wedding in the Dominican Republic. The first was cancelled under heartbreaking circumstances.
“My mom passed away, so it was postponed,” said Orzechowski.
“This one… was supposed to be super intimate. Everyone who could come came.”
The group arrived at their resort Monday night and things started off well enough. They got in a good day of pre-celebrations at their resort and later learned their ceremony would likely be moved inside with impending rain.
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But once the storm track solidified, reality set in that Hurricane Irma was approaching fast.
“You’d see workers throughout the night – it’s 12 o’clock in the morning – and you have them building trenches and concrete walls,” recalled Orzechowski.
“We were going to tape up our windows, put mattresses up against the windows and just hope for the best,” said Orzechowski’s fiancé Jordan Kovacs.
“Our Air Canada representative at the resort was dodging us,” claimed Orzechowski.
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The couple said they tried to contact the airline to see if any evacuation flights were planned, but weren’t receiving much help.
“We (were) calling his phone number, it (was) shut off, going straight to voicemail,” said Orzechowski.
It was Wednesday afternoon while some of the wedding party members were at a resort bar that their pastor got the call they were praying for and they had to rush into action. Kovacs recalled the panic and optimism in that moment.
“He dumps his beer, looks back at me, ‘Dump your beer!’ So I dump it I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ He starts running, he’s like ‘We’re being evacuated! We have an hour!’”
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After herding together the wedding party and waiting in long lines at a crowded airport, they took off for home just as bad weather was setting in.
“As of today, we have sent 24 extra flights to affected areas (6,000 seats) over three days and we are still evaluating and adding extra capacity,” said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick Thursday.
He said the airline is doing everything it can to keep up with emergency evacuation demands while maintaining normal scheduling.
“It is also important to remember for regular flights we are substituting larger than normal aircraft. For example, we sent a 450-seat Boeing 777 to Punta Cana (Thursday) where normally we operate the route with a 282-seat Boeing 767 aircraft,” said Fitzpatrick.
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“Planning for an operation such as this is extremely complicated. We need to rejig existing flights and schedules to free up aircraft that were supposed to fly elsewhere so they can operate these special flights.”
The couple are still trying to sort out their grievances with Air Canada, but they said they plan to try getting married in the Dominican Republic again.
“We thank God that we were fortunate enough to get out of there. We didn’t think that we would,” said Kovacs.
“And then you think of the people who are there, who have to live through that. It really puts things into perspective for sure,” added Orzechowski.
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