Rough storm trips up Rock Canyon students

Hurricane Sandy delays mock trial team’s return

Rock Canyon High School students Abby Thumann, left, and Katlyn Humbarger get outside in New York City after Hurricane Sandy subsided. The two are members of the school's mock trial team, which was stranded in Brooklyn for three days following a competition due to the storm. Courtesy photo
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Rock Canyon’s mock trial team may have made its best argument last week when it argued successfully not to get kicked out of its Brooklyn hotel.

The club, which was in New York for a 36-team international tournament, had arrangements to fly home Oct. 29. The only thing that came in or out of New York at the beginning of the week, however, was Hurricane Sandy.

The hurricane forced the seven-student Highlands Ranch team to stay an extra three days, most of which were spent on the sixth floor of the Brooklyn Marriott. And before they knew when they were going to be flying home, Chris Page, the team’s mentor and dean of instruction at the school, was busy arguing for his team to stay put.

“It was a crazy mess,” Page said. “They told us ‘we are going to have to ask you to leave the hotel because we are oversold and we have to honor all those people that are coming in.’ It became a big fiasco and it came down to whether we could consolidate.

“It was the biggest discussion/debate you had ever seen. There were 30 mock trial teams staying there, arguing to stay. We kept saying, ‘you just can’t put us out, there’s nowhere for us to go.’”

The Rock Canyon club consolidated from four rooms to two, and Page found himself sleeping on the floor in the room of four male students. Luckily for them, though, they were just far enough from the devastation to see it from the hotel, but were not directly impacted except for having their return trip delayed.

“Ultimately, I feel that we were very sheltered and we were just really fortunate,” said sophomore Lauren Yehle. “There are so many people who lost their homes.”

Yehle, who has been to New York many times before to visit family, said her cousin in New Jersey was told he would be without power for at least another two weeks. Her teammate, Katyln Humbarger, also had nearby family affected as her aunt in Manhattan had a tree fall into her home.

“I was kind of in denial,” Humbarger said of the storm coming in. “I didn’t expect that it was actually going to happen. When six teams left early because they didn’t want to get stuck there, that’s when I realized this was real and it was coming.”

Despite no major devastation hitting the neighborhood the Rock Canyon students were in, the storm came close enough to cause minor flooding in the hotel lobby. Page said the team felt safe, though, as FEMA was using the hotel as its headquarters.

“We didn’t have to worry about too much of anything,” Page said. “There was an observation area where we were able to sit and watch the storm. You could see directly into Manhattan and see the lights go off as the power outage started to happen. You could really see the desolation of New York, where all of a sudden this city that is always extremely lit up went to empty and went to black.

“We thought for sure we were going to lose power but we didn’t. It was surreal.  Monday night, rocks started hitting the windows, and Tuesday the lights flickered a bit and the generator powered down and back up. I think that was probably the most frightening moment for the kids. Everyone had their breakdown moment while we were there. Brooklyn looked like an absolute ghost town.”