NEW YORK - Barb Race has never missed a Halloween with her two sons, James, 12, and Nathan, 8. She planned to trick-or-treat in St. Petersburg again this year, just like every other year, until she got stuck in New York City.
"A short weekend vacation that has turned into kind of a nightmare," Race said, talking on her cell phone in Times Square. "I love New York and I never thought I'd want to leave it as badly as I do now."
Scheduled to fly back to Tampa from Manhattan on Monday, Race found out her flight was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. Her airline reassigned her several times, only to cancel those flights as well.
Race and her sister-in-law estimate they've spent an extra $1,000 already, on extended hotel room stays, clothes, and food. Their vacation pictures reflect the opposite of what they had in mind for their trip: empty grocery store shelves, closed subway entrances, sandbags blocking popular shopping spots, even David Letterman canceled audiences for Monday and Tuesday.
Race asked ABC Action News to send this message for her: "I just want to say 'Happy Halloween to my boys,'" she said. "I wish I could be there with you but I know you'll have fun with your friends and dad. I miss you all very much."
Race and her sister-in-law found a flight Friday from Washington, D.C. They took a bus Tuesday afternoon from New York, and plan to stay with a friend for the next few days.
However, two other St. Petersburg residents still have no idea when they'll leave.
"It was so different than a hurricane in Florida," explained Ingrid Rodriguez. "The buildings themselves, the wind, the streets, seeing the subways flooded the way they are, that's something we've never had to deal with where we are."
Rodriguez and her boyfriend, Alex Barranco, flew to New York for a concert over the weekend. Their flight was canceled indefinitely. A rental car would cost $1,000 for just two days.
Before Sandy, Barranco thought he'd planned the only surprise for their trip.
"I told her, 'I want to kiss you in the most romantic place you can think of,'" he remembered.
Rodriguez's first choice on Upper Manhattan wasn't an option, given the flooded train system. So, she picked a place they could get to: Macy's shoe department in Herald Square.
"He fumbles in his pocket and tells me, 'You know how much I love you and how I want to spend the rest of my life with you.' I start shaking," she said.
Rodriguez said "yes," which the couple admits makes it easier to hear all the "no's" from airlines.
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