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A Munster couple and family from Schererville hunkered down last week as Hurricane Irma blasted the Caribbean and Florida.

Anthony Christopher and his wife, Giovanna, of Munster, flew to Turks and Caicos on Sept. 2 for their honeymoon, he said.

The couple were scheduled to fly home Friday, but as the storm worsened, Christopher attempted to return sooner.

He initially rescheduled a flight home Thursday morning, hours before Hurricane Irma was expected to lash the archipelago. He paid $500 for the flight change, he said.

But the airline canceled the couple's rescheduled flight out, and they were forced to ride out the storm at the Sandals resort where they were staying, Christopher said.

On Monday, it was looking like the couple might not be able to return home until next week, he said.

Christopher said employees stayed at the resort, because the buildings were built to withstand hurricane winds. When they tried to return to their homes Friday, many found total destruction, he said.

"The resort is virtually destroyed," he said. "The exterior, the landscaping, the power is gone."

Wind from the hurricane caused their room to vibrate and shook the bed, he said. On Sunday, workers used chainsaws and axes to clean up debris outside.

Christopher, who spoke with The Times while on hold with American Airlines, said even if the airport reopens Tuesday, the airline might not send a plane to pick up passengers until Sunday.

S'ville family stuck in Florida

Tiffany Fliszar-Rivera, of Schererville, said she searched for flights out of Orlando but could not afford the $500 to $2,000 per person price tag. She was staying at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort in Orlando with her 7- and 11-year-old sons and former mother-in-law.

It would have cost $478 to rent a Chevrolet Spark, but she feared getting stuck on a highway during a hurricane because of traffic and gas shortages, she said.

When people from Fort Meyers and Tampa started showing up at the hotel after evacuating from their homes, Fliszar-Rivera decided to stay put.

The winds Sunday night into early Monday were so loud, she said, it sounded like workers were pounding on the roof and door to her family's room, which constantly rattled.

Her 7-year-old son, who was sleeping, put his pillow over his head to block out the noise at the height of the storm, she said.

Fliszar-Rivera went out Monday morning, and workers were busy making repairs and cleaning up.

"It's just sunny and bright and beautiful outside," she said, "like you'd never know a storm just came through." 

She was hoping her family's flight home, scheduled for Tuesday night, would not be canceled.

Former Regionites hunker down in Florida home

Michelle Riordan, formerly of Hobart, and her husband, Kevin, formerly of Schererville, along with their pug, Penny, considered evacuating from the Jacksonville home they moved into two years ago, but ultimately decided to stay.

"If we had been in Miami or Naples area, we would have left," Michelle Riordan said. "What's funny is I was just up in Hobart for Labor Day weekend. No one wanted me to leave."

The couple went through Hurricane Matthew, but Michelle Riordan thinks the winds were worse with Hurricane Irma.

"The winds were a constant howl and the rain was constantly hitting the windows in our bedroom," she said of the storm Sunday night. "I was able to fall asleep around midnight, but at 2 a.m. the winds woke me up. They were pretty fierce. I looked out the window at one point and saw an large green flash and the power went out."

The power was back on by Monday afternoon.

She said the area outside the subdivision where the couple live was flooded and she understood the the area around the hospital where she works downtown is also somewhat flooded. Despite the hurricane threat, the couple are not reconsidering moving back from their new home. 

"Although I'd rather experience a blizzard any day than a hurricane, I'm still glad we moved here," Michelle Riordan said. 

Former East Chicago Chief aids daughter

Former East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker traveled down to Davenport, Florida, located between Tampa and Orlando, to help his daughter, Katie, board up her home in advance of Hurricane Irma.

By the end of Saturday, Becker was physically tired and emotionally drained, but the windows were boarded up and the coolers were packed with ice. He woke up the next day to gray skies and rain. By 7:30 p.m. Sunday, however, the power went out and remained out for 20 hours.

For Becker, it was the tornadoes that often accompany such large hurricanes that were the biggest concern for him. One tornado, Becker said, was only about a half-mile away from their location.

"You cannot see them in the rain," said Becker, who noted their winds are "much higher and more focused. They are just not sustained like a hurricane."

Staff writer Ed Bierschenk contributed to this story.

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Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.