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Oxfordshire residents stranded as hurricane hits New York
TOURISTS from Oxfordshire were left stuck in hotels as a deadly storm smashed into New York yesterday.
Friends and family back at home in Oxford last night spoke of their fear as a record four-metre tidal surge and winds of up to 85mph battered New York.
A group of 40 schoolgirls from Oxford High School found themselves caught up in the storm in Manhattan.
The pupils from the Belbroughton Road school were in New York for a politics and economics forum but were forced to take refuge in their 3rd Avenue hotel.
Sarah Forbes was one of the stranded students who have been passing the time in their hotel with karaoke.
She said yesterday: “For the past few days it has been quite calm and even this morning it was quite calm and now the wind is definitely picking up because you can see the trees blowing at quite an angle now.”
A spokesman said the school was in close contact with staff looking after the girls.
Cumnor sales executive Olly Plews, whose 17-year-old sister Ellie is on the trip, said he was concerned when he realised the storm was heading straight for New York.
But he added his family heard from Ellie that she was not hurt in the storm.
He said: “It is slightly worrying. When they first arrived New York it was really busy, but on the second night they said it was just deserted.”
Mum-of-one Clare Colwell, from Risinghurst, went to New York with five schoolfriends – who all went to Cheney School – to celebrate their 41st birthdays.
She managed to brave the early parts of the storm but ended up taking shelter in their 7th Avenue hotel when the fiercest winds hit the city.
Her sister Sandy Webb, 51, from Rose Hill, last night said it was ironic she had the same name as the storm.
She said: “I know it sounds ridiculous but I feel like I ought to be apologising to her about it.
“I was a bit nervous about her last night but we have had contact with her now, so I’m not so worried.”
Mum Julia Colwell, from Sandhills, said: “They have been saving up for five years to celebrate their 41th birthdays in New York.
“She emailed me yesterday and apparently Manhattan is very quiet.
“They were all at school together and four of them have got children so their husbands have been left holding the babies, so to speak.”
The storm, which last night was being blamed for at least 27 deaths in the US, also caused an explosion at a power station and fires which destroyed about 50 homes.
In all, about 50 million people could be affected, with up to a million ordered to evacuate their homes as US President Barack Obama yesterday declared it a “major disaster”. The devastation has also affected the plans of people hoping to head out to the US later this week.
Adam Wheeler, from Sutton Courtenay, is hoping to fly out to New York tomorrow to take part in Sunday’s NewYork Marathon, but fears his dream may now be at risk.
The 32-year-old, who is raising money for charity Sue Ryder, said: “I have taken it upon myself to check my flight and it hasn’t been cancelled yet.
“But I am really quite nervous. Running the New York Marathon is something I have wanted to do for a long time and it is the opportunity of a lifetime. It would be the first time I have ever visited New York.”
The storm also meant Jericho-based Oxford University Press was forced to close down its New York office and send its 500 staff home.
A spokesman said: “We are in touch with our employees and are actively monitoring the situation. “Our thoughts are with our US colleagues and their families at this time.”
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