TAMPA - Watching the massive, swirling images of Hurricane Sandy on a TV screen meant more to Mark Ovich than the average traveler. To him, it was reliving a nightmare he experienced just a year ago with Hurricane Irene.
The Maryland resident nearly lost his home during that storm. "I had a tree go through my house," Ovich said. "But now we're here and worried about that again."
After attending a wedding in Sarasota, Ovich and his family are stranded in Tampa with no hope for a flight home until Friday. They can only watch and pray that Sandy doesn't bring them the same misfortune as last year's storm.
When Phil Hughes heard about his flight delay back to the Washington, D.C. area, he considered renting a car and driving the 18 hours back home with his family. But Hughes knew such a grueling drive might be too much for his mother.
"She's 84, and there's five of us in a car," Hughes said. "Families get along, but you take them on a road trip, you never know," he laughed. Hughes was among the few who could make light of the inconvenience Sandy was causing travelers in Florida and across the country.
By late afternoon Monday, the hurricane had forced the cancellation of 70 departures and 55 arrivals at Tampa International Airport. The aviation authority expected about half those numbers for Tuesday.
Joe Dunbar and Ruth Beder from Manchester, England were sitting on a row of airport chairs underneath the bank of screens listing the flight cancellations. Both came to Florida for a Gainesville festival, and were supposed to be on a plane to New York on Monday morning.
Hurricane Sandy ruined those plans, leaving the couple stuck at the airport, waiting for a flight back to the UK. Beder said rather than doing nothing, they decided to take a cab over to the International Plaza shopping mall.
"We planned to do a little shopping in New York, so we have lots of shopping money left over," Beder said. "Do some shopping in Tampa instead."
Dunbar said it was frustrating to travel all the way across the Atlantic, only to have a surprise storm through a wrench in their itinerary.
"It's just ironic that we planned the trip ages ago, we get here, and it's just a ridiculously large storm," he said. "The Frankenstorm appears."
Overall, Tampa International Airport ran smoothly, as many ticketing counters and aisles were empty because of the flight cancellations.
Airlines encouraged passengers to check their flight status via websites, apps, Facebook, or twitter to avoid long waits on the phone.
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