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Group’s vacation cut short by Irma


On Tuesday afternoon, Tracy White of St. John’s and her friends were enjoying their vacation in the Dominican Republic and didn’t seem too worried about an anticipated monster hurricane.

Hours later, the group was packing their bags to come home.

“WestJet felt it was best we get out of here,” White said via Facebook messenger Wednesday morning.

“We’re in the lobby now, just enjoying our last beverage before heading to the airport.”

According to national news reports, Canadian airlines WestJet and Air Transat are sending several planes to bring travellers back from the Dominican Republic as well as the Turks and Caicos ahead of hurricane Irma, which is considered the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history.

The Category 5 storm — with winds of close to 300 km/h — made landfall in the northeast Caribbean Monday night and is roaring toward Antigua, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The system is expected to pass near the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands by Friday, and Cuba on Friday and Saturday — and potentially turn north and slam Florida by the weekend.

It’s unknown how many passengers are expected to return on WestJet and Air Transat.

Air Canada indicated it is also assisting customers, with extra flights sent to Antigua and the Turks and Caicos. It has also added extra flights to the Dominican Republic and replaced some routes to Cuba and Florida with larger aircraft to accommodate more passengers.

White — who arrived in Punta Cana Saturday to celebrate her 45th birthday with her husband Jeff Reid, and friends Jeff and Dana Putt, and Peter and Lori Whelan — had been contacted by their WestJet representative on Tuesday with instructions about what to do in case they have to evacuate.

However, the representative called them Tuesday night to inform them of the plan to fly home.

“Yeah, we’re disappointed, but that’s all you can do,” White said.

“My daughter is home worried sick, so it’ll be nice to put her mind at ease.”

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rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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