This Girl Fell Asleep During A Hurricane And Didn’t Know How To Escape

Trains usually work until late at night. But day after day, after the last service of the night, the trains’ doors are locked up and they are sent to the railyard until the following morning. But can you imagine being trapped inside one of the train’s wagons, with no way of escaping? This is what happened to 18-year-old Claire Connelly when taking a train back to her hometown in order to escape from Hurricane Irma. So read this story until the end, because it just gets crazier and crazier!


Hurricanes are one of the world’s many natural catastrophes. Also known as tropical cyclones or typhoons, they are intense tropical storms with powerful winds and heavy rains. They usually develop over warm waters and use it as an energy source. Considering they originate in water, coastal regions are logically the ones most at danger from hurricanes.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

When a hurricane hurtles straight for land, people have no choice but to flee. Sometimes entire cities must be evacuated in order to prevent potential disasters. The thing is, the swirling storms caused by hurricanes not only cause high-speed winds, but may also create tornadoes, high waves, and maybe even dangerous floods. As a matter of fact, hurricanes have provoked 2 million deaths over the last 200 years. Can you believe it?

Frightening Forecast

So each time there’s a hurricane forecast, there are plenty of reasons why to worry. But on September 2017, meteorologists detected the strongest hurricane ever seen in the Atlantic Ocean. The hurricane was named Irma. It was tearing through the Caribbean sea, heading towards the US state of Florida. Considering the gravity of the situation, measures had to be taken, and quick.

Photo: Courtesy of Business Insider

As a result of the forecast, the governor of Florida ordered the residents in the storm’s paths to evacuate. Since hurricane alerts are quite common, most people living in the coastal areas of Florida are already used to the standard evacuation procedures. But this time, the number of people that had to be evacuated was much higher.

Far Away From Home

In the middle of autumn, tens of thousands of people began the standard evacuation procedures. Amongst those was 18-year-old Claire Connelly. At the time the evacuation was announced, she was at her university campus in South Florida. So she made her way from her campus to her home elsewhere in the country to escape the storm.

Photo: Courtesy of Scribol

However, Connelly’s evacuation didn’t go quite as planned. She had to take both a bus, a plane and a train to reach her hometown, but it happens to be that she fell asleep during the last leg of her journey. When she woke up, she felt scared and horrified: she found herself miles away from the safety and coziness of home.

 Worst Storm In History

Before reaching the coastal areas of southern Florida, Hurricane Irma first hit the coasts of several Caribbean countries. The first country to suffer its consequences was Antigua and Barbuda. When the hurricane reached its coasts, meteorologists hadn’t seen anything like it ever before.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Strong winds whipped the small island for nearly 37 hours. It became the first tropical storm in the world to have had winds as intense for so long. With winds reaching peaks of 185 miles per hour, Irma became the strongest recorded storm outside the Gulf of Mexico. It destroyed large parts of the island, leaving it completely uninhabited, something that hadn’t happened for almost three centuries.

The Evacuation Begins

When the whole region learned about the effects of the storm in Antigua and Barbuda, further precautions were taken. After all, Hurricane Irma had only begun, so a lot of destruction was yet to come. But the storm was heading straight for the Florida Keys. So Florida’s governor Rick Scott wasn’t going to take any chances nor risk any lives.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Scott declared a state of emergency in almost 30 of the state’s counties. Besides, he issued an order to enforce the evacuation of the region of the Florida Keys as well as neighboring counties. In order to prevent a catastrophe, the evacuation had to be done quickly.

Large Scale Evacuation

As days went by, Hurricane Irma began to hit other Caribbean islands. So as the gravity of the storm began getting worse, the meteorologists, as well as the governor, understood that the circumstances demanded a further large-scale evacuation.

Photo: Courtesy of Getting Images

So eventually, the evacuation order was extended to include 6.5 million Floridians. Amongst these people was the main character of this story, student Claire Connelly. This 18-year-old girl had recently moved to Fort Myers to study nursing at the Florida Gulf Coast University. But the university’s campus was located in one of the counties that was forced to evacuate.

Class Dismissed

Once the evacuation plan was enforced, many public and private institutions were forced to close down temporarily, at least for a couple of days until the hurricane passed. Of course, the Florida Gulf Coast University was no exception. On September 6, the board sent an email to each of its students to let them know that the university would be closing its doors for at least a whole week.

Photo: Courtes of Florida Gulf Coast University

According to the email, the decision had been made during an FGCU Emergency Advisory Council meeting. “We recognize that some students, faculty and staff who evacuated will be in other parts of the state and country,” the mail read. So in the wake of the hurricane, and with nowhere else to go, Connelly decided to head back to her hometown in New Jersey.

An Uphill Journey

Unfortunately, Connelly’s journey wasn’t an easy one. To begin with, she had to buy a last-minute plane ticket just as they were about to run out. And of course, the fares of tickets bought at such short notice are usually way higher than average. The ticket that she managed to buy cost almost $1,000. It was actually more than what she could normally afford, but she was left without a choice.

Photo: Courtesy of Youtube / Inside Edition

But paying for the flight wasn’t the only problem. First, she had to take a bus from Fort Myers to Jacksonville, the city from where the flight left. But the bus ride took longer than usual. But this is not all: keep on reading the story if you want to know how her journey continued.

I had to drive six hours to Jacksonville, and from Jacksonville I had to take a flight to Michigan“, Connelly told Inside Edition.

23. A Long Way Home

One would imagine that a bus ride and a flight is enough in order to reach your final destination. But for Connelly, heading back home was not as simple. After her flight from Jacksonville to Detroit, she had to wait for several hours at the airport in order to catch a second flight from Detroit to Newark, New Jersey.

Photo: Courtesy of Youtube / Inside Edition

But, once again, this was not all. Once in Newark, she still had to finish the final segment of the journey: an hour-long train ride from the airport to Highlands, the place where her parents lived. Supposedly, her parents would wait for her at the train station. If not, she would have to take yet another transport, most likely a cab from the station to her parent’s house. This trip sounds endless!

Tough Luck

When Connelly arrived at Newark after her two flights in a row, she was relieved at the thought of having only one leg of the journey left. Besides, the train that she had to catch had quite comfortable seats, so she could easily nap all the way to Highlands. But unfortunately, the train ride wouldn’t end with the reunion, warmth and safety that she would have imagined.

Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Crierie

Here’s the thing: Connelly walked onto the wrong train. Or to be more precise, she took the train the wrong way. Strangely, neither she nor the train’s employees noticed it. But what do you think happened when she got on board and after the train left? Keep on reading!

The guy who checks the tickets didn’t even notice mine said Middletown“, Connelly tweeted some days later.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

But the series of unfortunate events doesn’t end here. Connelly was looking forward to the train ride since it was her chance of taking a quick nap. However, she was so exhausted after so many hours of traveling, that she fell asleep before she realized it.

Photo: Courtesy of Skitterphoto

If she had taken the train going in the right direction, falling asleep wouldn’t have been too much of an inconvenience. After all, the train’s final destination of Middletown was only a 15-minute drive from her hometown. But this was far from the case. Taking the train the wrong way could mean ending up hundreds of kilometers away from home. Do you dare guess what happened when she woke up? You won’t believe it.

I fell asleep reading biology note cards (…) I was just exhausted from all the chaos“, Connelly said to

Fast Asleep

So while Connelly was going through her notes, she was actually taking the train towards Raritan, New Jersey, a borough that’s several hours before her parents’ house. And by the time she opened her eyes, the train had already made it to the final stop. You must think it’s enough bad luck, right? Well, it turns out that her bad luck doesn’t end here!

Photo: Courtesy of Youtube / Inside Edition

It happens to be that when the train arrived at Raritan, nor did she wake up, nor did the workers realize that Connelly was fast asleep in one of the wagons. Nobody woke her up telling her to get off the train. So instead, when she woke up, she was all alone in a deserted train wagon, unsure of where she was. It sounds a bit like a horror movie scene, right? Guess what she did next!

Stranded In The Railyard

Not only was poor 18-year-old Connelly all alone in an empty train. The main problem was that the train had been taken to the railyard for the night. And obviously, all the doors were shut. The only option that she had was to climb out of the window, but being left stranded in the middle of the railways didn’t make her feel too comfortable. After all, being inside the train was scary, distressing and spooky, but at least it was safe.

Photo: Courtesy of Adam E. Moreira

But ever since she left her campus, things just kept on getting worse for young Connelly. She grabbed her phone with the intention of calling her parents but realized it only had 5% of battery left. She frantically called both the police and her parents, hoping that someone would answer and pick her up. She hoped to find a solution as quick as possible, for it was a matter of minutes until her phone would turn off.

Live Streaming

After realizing that her phone’s battery wasn’t going to last long, she decided to use what was left of it to film herself. It sounds kind of crazy and pointless, but if you think about it, it kind of makes sense. What she did was flip the device’s camera on herself, so as to record what was happening. The point was to record a live stream so that people would find out where she was through Twitter.

Photo: Courtesy of Twitter / Claire Bridget

Obviously, she had to do it fast, because recording with the device’s camera consumes battery extremely quickly.

I literally just fell asleep on my train. I’m on a train, there is no one on“, Connelly said on her live streaming.

Shouts Of Despair

Connelly hoped that someone would watch her video and rescue her. However, she couldn’t help her anxiety and despair. So she started screaming out the window as loud as she could. The photo below is actually a screenshot from the video she filmed inside the train.

No one answered. The train was completely empty and shut down for the night“, Connelly later told.

Photo: Courtesy of Twitter / Claire Bridget

A few hours later, the Raritan Borough police showed up. Despite her apparent fear and distress, she had shown in the videos, the police didn’t show much sympathy towards her when they arrived. But little did Connelly care: she just wanted to get out as quickly as possible.

Who’s To Blame?

To Connelly’s surprise, not only were the police not amused, but they even blamed her. They claimed it was her fault that she was stuck. She later vented on her Twitter account. She tweeted that the police believed it was her responsibility to get off before the train was locked down.

Photo: Courtesy of Facebook / Claire Connelly

Connelly just couldn’t believe it. Why was she suddenly being condemned just for falling asleep? Shouldn’t the workers have noticed that she was sleeping on one of the wagons before locking the doors? Shouldn’t that be one of their duties? These were some of the many questions that Connelly kept asking herself.

Rush Of Emotions

Even though Connelly was rather annoyed at the police’s attitude, she decided to hold it in. But even though she decided to keep her feelings to herself at the moment, she expressed her anger through a couple more tweets moment after.

Photo: Courtesy of Facebook / Claire Connelly

Many people who read her tweets actually sided with her, saying that it was the train crew’s responsibility to ensure that the carriages were empty before locking them at the end of the day. And eventually, someone unexpected expressed her support for Connelly.

Unexpected Support

Among the many people that expressed their support for Connelly was Nancy Snyder, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit. Through her Twitter account, she admitted that it was extremely rare for this to happen. However, she defended the young 18-year-old, claiming that it was the train crew’s responsibility to make sure that nobody remains inside the train.

Photo: Courtesy of Instagram / Njtransit

After taking her side, Snyder stated that the organization was going to investigate why Connelly had been left inside the train.

It is the conductor’s responsibility to check the train“, New Jersey Transit spokeswoman claimed on her Twitter account.

Tip Of The Iceberg

It’s true that the Raritan Borough police showed little patience once showing up. But on the other hand, regardless of who was to blame for the incident, they did at least wait with her until her parents arrived to take her home.

Photo: Courtesy of Scribol

At the end of such an exhausting day of traveling, Connelly stated that her unfortunate train ride was the “icing on the cake after being evacuated from my college in Florida“. To be fair, she did put up with a lot for just one day, so she had plenty of reasons for being upset. And let’s not forget that she was probably stressed out right from the start because of the hurricane!

Never Again

Fortunately, things turned out for the best. After being picked up by her parents, she spent a couple of weeks safe and sound in her hometown. And as soon as classes resumed after the hurricane, she eventually made her trek from New Jersey back to Florida Gulf Coast University’s campus.

Photo: Courtesy of Scribol

But on the journey back, she chose a different path. As you can imagine, she wanted to avoid at all cost having to ride a train ever again. After the incident, she was left pretty much traumatized just by the thought of taking a long-distance train once again.

Honestly, I probably won’t take the train again. I’m pretty horrified“, Connelly tweeted a couple of days after the ordeal.

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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