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Here's What It Was Like To Ride Out Hurricane Irma In A Miami Hotel

Two BuzzFeed News reporters hunked down for Hurricane Irma in a hotel near the Miami airport.

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BuzzFeed News reporters Lissandra Villa and Amber Jamieson are in Florida to report on Hurricane Irma. They spent the weekend holed up in a hotel near the Miami airport, away from flooding and evacuation zones and surrounded by hurricane-proof glass. Original predictions showed the city would be in the eye of the storm, but by Saturday morning, the storm had shifted west. But with hurricane-force winds lashing most of the state, they were forced to stay put. Here’s how they spent the weekend waiting out the storm.

8 a.m. Saturday

We woke up and the weather was beginning to get a little windy, but it was still calm. We wondered if we had time to quickly drive to Naples, since new National Weather Center forecasts showed the storm shifting west, and likely to make a direct hit there. But we decided we wouldn't be able to make it back to Miami before the storm hit, so we stayed instead.

Saturday, 11 a.m.

11am Saturday from my Miami hotel window. Grey, wind is starting, only a bit of rain. First of a series.

The morning weather was calm enough to do some reporting in the surrounding hotels. A couple Lissandra ran into was low on cash and didn't have a place to stay. "We have nowhere to go," the man said.

Amber met a father and daughter who were headed to a local shelter because the hotel they had been staying at was full and couldn’t extend their stay.

We filed a story focused on Miami residents who had evacuated to the airport area for the storm and how they felt now that Irma had taken a new path away from the city and toward the southwestern coast.

Saturday, 12:20 p.m.

12:20pm Saturday from our Miami hotel room - heavy rain has started, wind is picking up

The first heavy rain began, but it didn’t last too long.

Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

.@ambiej laid out a lot of our supplies. Here's most of what we're riding Irma out with.

We recorded an Instagram Live, explaining to people what our supplies for the storm looked like. We had hit up Publix, a big local supermarket, on Friday, buying a bunch of basics for the storm. The most difficult thing to find was water, but luckily the store was restocking as we shopped, and we were able to get five gallons.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

2:30pm Saturday in our Miami hotel room and the rain and wind have calmed for the moment.

The weather calmed down again.

Saturday, 5:25 p.m.

5:25pm Saturday in our Miami hotel and wind is picking up.

The wind picked up again.

We tuned into CBS Miami 4 to follow the news locally. Amber’s favorite reporter, Bianca Peters, was reporting on the hurricane from the beach in a dress, because she hadn’t expected to be reporting outside, while sand and rain came at her from all sides.

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

7:30pm Saturday from our Miami hotel. Rain and wind constant but not too strong - tornado 30 mins north of us and w… https://t.co/KOLVH4VJQG

Weather seemed calm near our hotel, but the local TV news was full of tornado warnings for the areas to the north and south. Lissandra, who grew up in the Midwest, was convinced tornadoes are not a big deal, while Amber, who grew up in Australia, put her passport in a waterproof case, packed up her electronics, and prepared to sprint to the closest concrete stairwell.

Saturday, 9 p.m.

Right there's 25 guests plus staff hanging in our Miami hotel lobby/restaurant - eating, drinking, playing board games, watching football

We heated up leftover Cuban food in the hotel microwave, and ate it in the dining area downstairs.

Instagram: @lissandravilla

No one downstairs seemed concerned about the tornadoes. And the vaca frita from the Cuban restaurant we went to Friday night (pictured above) still tasted very good.

Saturday, 10 p.m.

Decided it was time for a drink and poured ourselves some red wine.

Saturday, 11 p.m.

11pm Saturday from our Miami hotel: little breezy and rainy but relatively calm. Off to bed (yes I only just though… https://t.co/3huXhYuEbg

Weather seemed calm. Went to bed thinking that maybe the hurricane wasn't so bad.

Sunday, 8 a.m.

Woke up to a spooky, whistling wind outside and the news that Miami International Airport, not far from our hotel, was reporting sustained winds of 43 miles per hour and gusts up to 70 miles per hour.

Sunday, 8:25 a.m.

8:25am Sunday from our Miami hotel. Very windy and getting louder (gusts of up to 70mph reported near us). Just los… https://t.co/3kxp1Ltgm6

The hotel lost power for the first time, although it may happened before sometime overnight, but it came back on within seconds.

Sunday, 9 a.m.

We each showered, thinking it was smart to do so while we still had running water.

Sunday, 9:30 a.m.

Went down for breakfast and realized the elevators were out of service. The first set of stairs we tried led us straight into the storm outside, but eventually we found our way down.

Despite having plenty of drinking water, we filled the bathtub halfway when we got back to the room, just in case we needed to use the water to flush the toilet, or wash hands, or whatever.

Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

We went live on Facebook and then on Instagram, talking to a couple of guests at the hotel. Two of them were tourists trying to get back to Switzerland, after their flights were cancelled due to the storm. They said family and friends were worried about them.

One guest we interviewed talked about how difficult it was for his wife, who was in a wheelchair, to get around the hotel without elevators. She had to be carried up to their room on the third floor. The guest was out walking his dog, Rocket.

🚀 This is Rocket. Our hotel has a lot of pets staying with their owners.

Sunday, 11:30 a.m.

11:30am Sunday from our Miami hotel next to the pool area, some light flooding. Usually this area is covered in lou… https://t.co/0a4BHOJSE9

Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

The hotel fire alarms went off, as Irma's winds started to hit Miami. Amber grabbed her passport, wallet, electronics, and raincoat and put on heavy boots.

Alarms keep going off in our Miami hotel, weather setting them off but no cause for concern (yet). Piercingly loud… https://t.co/zGxEv8FLiZ

Downstairs, staff told us there was nothing to worry about. But the fire alarm continued to go off every few minutes, loudly, putting us on edge.

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Hurricane Irma lunch prepared by @LissandraVilla, now just listening to winds and watching @CBSMiami

Lissandra made lunch with some of our perishable goods, which we ate in bed while watching the news.

Sunday, 1:20 p.m.

1:20pm Sunday from our Miami hotel room. Wind is much stronger (80-100mph in our area). Power keeps cutting out and… https://t.co/exlAlIy6WL

The wind gets stronger and stronger.

2:30 p.m.

2:30pm Sunday in our Miami hotel. A tree is down in the car park (not sure when it fell). That's luckily the worst… https://t.co/imegrSMt6L

Amber went for a walk around the hotel just to do something, and saw that a tree had fallen down outside.

Sunday, 2:35 p.m.

2:35pm Sunday in our Miami hotel - the outdoor terrace area next to pool (normally filled w lounge chairs) is very… https://t.co/PuTknugcWc

The pool area started to look pretty flooded.

Sunday, 3:35 p.m.

Irma made second landfall in Florida on Marco Island, about a 100 miles west of us in Miami.

Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

So @lissandravilla and I decided to just duck outside for two seconds in Miami to see if the weather had calmed eno… https://t.co/pyXOUPX0cb

We wandered outside to see if the wind had dropped enough for us to leave the hotel, but strong gusts of wind and half-flooded roads forced us to turn around immediately, before we'd even made it to the end of the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Irma had been downgraded to a Category 2 storm as it passed over Naples, on the other side of the state.

Sunday, 5:45 p.m.

The power went out again, and seemed to take an usually long time to come back. We stayed in the lobby bar for a while, talking to other people stranded there, and having a drink in the dark.

Bless Ryan, our hotel staffer who doesn't normally work the bar but let me teach him how to make old fashioneds thi… https://t.co/LP5STN1eZ2

7:50 p.m.

We just lost power for a couple of hours because of Irma, but we're back online! Here are some folks down in our lo… https://t.co/lnyJDW88Jn

The power returns.

Sunday, 9 p.m.

Started to plan our reporting for the next few days. It's clear there's a lot of damage in Miami, but other parts of the state were hit harder, so we're planning to head west and south first thing Monday morning. And we're grateful that we had a safe place to ride out the storm.

Lissandra Villa is a politics reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Lissandra Villa at lissandra.villahuerta@buzzfeed.com.

Amber Jamieson is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Amber Jamieson at amber.jamieson@buzzfeed.com.

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