Jenna Miller and Bradley Cairns in Orlando before Hurricane Matthew struck. Picture: Supplied.

A West Norfolk couple are relieved to be safely home after being caught-up in the tail-end of a terrifying hurricane which claimed more than a thousand lives. 

Jenna Miller, of South Wootton, and boyfriend Bradley Cairns, of Heacham, flew out to America for a special holiday to celebrate their 21st birthdays.

But their two-week dream break turned into a frightening nightmare as hotels and homes in Florida battened down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Matthew.

The devastating hurricane left a path of death and destruction in Haiti, where winds reached around 145mph and more than 1,000 people died.

The death toll in America earlier this was week stood at 33, with 12 people killed when it battered the coast of Florida.

Miss Miller said: “We are very glad to be home. It was very scary.”

A stormy view of the couple’s Orlando resort during Hurricane Matthew. Pictures: Supplied.
A stormy view of the couple’s Orlando resort during Hurricane Matthew. Pictures: Supplied.

The couple anxiously watched weather updates and kept in touch with worried family back home as the drama unfolded last week.

Their visit to Sea World on Thursday was cut short when the resort was forced to close early and staff started to secure the attraction.

Friday was spent in their Orlando hotel in the Universal resort after the local mayor ordered people to stay indoors and those caught breaking the curfew were arrested by police.

“The few days build-up to Hurricane Matthew were very stressful and worrying, not just for us but for our families back home.

“We were constantly checking our phones to monitor its path and current location, wondering if we were able to go to the parks we had planned to visit or to stay in the hotel.

“Thursday evening we stayed in as it began. Friday morning we woke up to the hurricane, trees at the front of the hotel had fallen over, the wind was blowing heavily and the rain was heavy, with threats of flooding.

“We went downstairs to breakfast and I recorded a video. You can hear the wind through the doors and it sounds like someone was screaming,” she said.

“The atmosphere was weird on Thursday and Friday because everyone was trying to  keep calm.”

Miss Miller said hotel staff  put on entertainment, meals had to be served downstairs in a basement area and sandbags were placed outside the hotel doors.

She added they were extremely relieved when the hurricane went to the east and did not hit the area as badly as originally expected.

“We expected it to be a lot worse but luckily it went further out to sea,” she said.

Winds predicted for the resort were 120 to 140mph but Miss Miller said it was more like 80 to 90mph with torrential rain.

On Saturday the couple learned they would still be able to catch their scheduled Sunday flight home as many previous flights had been cancelled.

She said: “Saturday was like there had never been a hurricane. It was sunny and clear but lots of trees were down.”

Miss Miller, a hair stylist with Talking Heads, of North Wootton, said apart from a holiday at Tenerife, this had been her first big holiday.

Sandbags at the couple's hotel. Pictures: Supplied.
Sandbags at the couple’s hotel. Pictures: Supplied.

“On the plane I just wanted to get home,” said Miss Miller, who had booked the break as a surprise birthday present for Mr Cairns, a personal banking manager at Nationwide building society in King’s Lynn.

“Florida hasn’t had a hurricane for 12 years and I’d deleted my hurricane app from my phone because I needed the storage.

“It was awful for our families and friends as well but we were messaging, texting and using Facebook to keep in touch.”

She said the frightening experience has made her think about future travel.

“In some ways it has put me off, it was really scary. I would still go but I would do a lot more research and checking before going,” she said.