Weather conditions are slightly improving for the areas affected by Wednesday’s devastating wildfires in the Hawaiian Islands.
At least 36 people were killed after wildfires ripped through Lahaina, destroying hundreds of structures.
The devastation has now left thousands of travelers stranded, as they figure out when they’ll make it back home.
Many of the stranded travelers trying to fly out of Maui are from the Tri-State area.
“It was very scary because there was a lot of smoke,” said Kate Storms, who is a Dobbs Ferry resident, to Eyewitness News. “There was a lot of smoke. I could see it right from the car. There was a whole highway of people also seeing that.”
Storms and her family, who were on vacation in Maui, spent the night in that car – stuck on a closed highway unable to get back to their hotel.
The family eventually made it to a Walmart, where they and locals have been picking up supplies. They slept a second night in that parking lot.
Mike Damergis is another New Yorker who was forced to make a getaway from his island getaway.
With fires threatening their hotel, the Iona University professor and his family spent hours on a golf course parking lot.
Damergis said he didn’t feel he was in immediate danger from the deadly flames, but the lack of cell service and being in unfamiliar surroundings have made things difficult.
“The one option was there is one road you can take out of town. It’s very tricky, very rough and you can’t do it at night,” said Damergis. “It was an ominous feeling.”
Damergis made it to a hotel on the northern part of Maui, able to celebrate his nephew’s birthday – all while realizing so many who live on the island are suffering.
“They were in tears as their family and friends had lost their homes in the area,” said Damergis. “And yet a lot of them didn’t have homes to go to, but were still showing up to work to feed the people and to help the people that were all evacuating the area.”
The Storms hope to fly back into New York on Thursday, while the Damergis family have a few more days before getting ready for the start of the new school year.
Just two families returning from a vacation they’ll never forget – for reasons they could’ve never imagine.
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