Surviving the Eye of the Storm

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By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy

Tim Morgan, left, and Eric Parizek with their catch of tuna two days before Hurricane Odile devastated Cabo.
Tim Morgan, left, and Eric Parizek with their catch of tuna two days before Hurricane Odile devastated Cabo.

Friends call Eric Parizek “Lucky Boy.” Now, after surviving the ferocity of Hurricane Odile while visiting in San Jose del Cabo last week, the 42-year-old Laguna Beach resident concedes the term of endearment suits him.

“It was the first time in my life I thought I was going to die,” said Parizek, a personal trainer who was visiting Mexico to surf and fish with a friend and client, Tim Morgan, of San Francisco.

Nevertheless, Parizek recounts that luck played a role in the friends’ three-day ordeal, where they escaped injury as window shards flew around them, would-be bandits who tried to rob them and fallen palm trees that blocked their path.

“I’m lucky in all aspects; physically strong to move debris and mentally alert to go into survival mode,” said Parizek, who re-called the experience as “the worst time of our life.”

The two fled with other American tourists on the first military planes to reach the area on Monday, Sept. 15, the day after the Category 5 storm slammed the popular tourist destination, collapsing the airport terminal, knocking out power lines and severing communication.

After two days spent surfing and fishing, Parizek and Morgan took precautions when forecaster’s predictions about the storm’s strength escalated. They stocked up with food and parked the house jeep against the structure, heeding advice from the owner of the home they were using.

When the hurricane hit at 9 p.m., Parizek recalled reaching for his cell phone just as an un-tempered window disintegrated, sending shards into the drywall blown by winds of at least 111 mph. The friends retreated to the floor of another bedroom, covering themselves with bedding, but again the window shattered around them and the bed was sucked out the open window. They hunkered down in a third bedroom with the home’s smallest window, which remained intact.

During the relative quiet as the eye of the storm passed overhead, they inspected the rain-drenched house, finding every cupboard open and sucked bare and the refrigerator outside on a deck.

The next morning under clear skies, they soon realized theirs was the only vehicle in the neighborhood that was drivable. Nearly all the others had been overturned. To help resupply their neighbors with food and water, they undertook the one-mile trek to town, a two-hour journey that required clearing downed palm trees as they went.

“If we weren’t fit, we wouldn’t have survived,” said Parizek.

Storm damage to the home where Tim Morgan and Eric Parizek rode out the hurricane.
Storm damage to the home where Tim Morgan and Eric Parizek rode out the hurricane.

At a convenience store, they reluctantly joined looters helping themselves to the inventory. “I’m not proud of it,” said Parizek. “It was survival mode.”

While they were loading the jeep, a robber came up to Parizek and demanded his money. With adrenaline pumping, Parizek punched the bandit and knocked him to the ground.

En route back to their neighborhood, they stopped at nine hotels, all of which were refusing new guests. At Costa Azul, Parizek ran into staff that knew him from previous visits. The former owners are clients.

The valet told Parizek Mexican authorities had contacted the hotels to inform them military planes would be arriving shortly and urged him to get out. He did, enlisting a neighbor to drive the two to the wrecked airport in the borrowed jeep.

They were nearly the last passengers permitted to board the flight to Guadalajara, where they would then depart for Los Angeles. They arrived back on U.S. soil at 2 a.m., three days later than planned.

“It was the longest night of my life,” said Parizek, who a week after arriving home says his nightmares about the storm are abating, though he’s sought counseling for post-traumatic stress.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I’d be interested in knowing where these men were staying. I resided in La Playita, a fishing village on the Sea of Cortez, for 8 years. I have been unable to contact any of my former neighbors since Hurricane Odiel. Can anyone update me?

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