After her flight back to West Michigan was canceled Wednesday and her departure airport closed, she was stuck there, forced to ride out the wrath of the hurricane. She weathered the storm in Inverness, about 70 miles north of Tampa.
“I'm looking at my girlfriend's house with a tree on the house,” Royce said Monday morning. “It also (landed on) three cars. We've got some power lines down.
“The storm is pretty much over now,” she added. “We're just making sure our friends are OK.”
Royce said she's still in fear for one of her friends who lives about 40 minutes inland from Fort Myers.
“We haven't heard from her,” she said. “I'm going to call the police to see if they can check on her. I'm down here, so I can try to call and get somebody out there.”
Royce said that because home insurance premiums are so high in Florida, she doesn't insure her mobile home. That's why she flew down last week to board it up.
“It probably wasn't one of my brighter light-bulb moments,” she said of flying to Florida with a hurricane on the horizon. “We were thankful no trees went down on it. The power is out.”
The scene began to change last Wednesday, Royce said, when lines at gas stations stretched for more than a mile.
“And the gas was gone within an hour,” she said Monday. “I walked into Winn-Dixie (a grocery store) yesterday. They put four pallets of water down and it was gone in three minutes.”
Since Royce couldn't haul plywood in her rental car, she paid a woman to take her to Lowe's to buy plywood to board up her and about a dozen friends' houses. She got some of the last remaining wood at the home improvement store.
She also had the foresight to fill up gas cans prior to the storm.
“It helps when you can think on your feet,” Royce said. “We're used to snowstorms and stuff like that (in Michigan). It's the same thing, only a little different. I'm a storm chaser at heart, but I told my daughter this wasn't one of my brighter moments to fly down here.”
Royce was unable to return home because Orlando International Airport was shut down. As of Monday, she did not know when it will be reopened.
Because she volunteers for the American Red Cross, Royce set up portable chargers to charge cellphones so her group could stay in contact with worried loved ones during the storm.
“We never lost contact,” she said.
Royce and many others from her community trailer park rode out the storm in a concrete home that belongs to a friend.
“It's like a fortress,” Royce said. “There was no thunder or lightning — just wind. You could hear stuff falling in the distance. We were in a really secure house. Everyone from the trailer park went to her house.”
Royce said the secure home helped calm her fears, despite what was swirling outside.
“This storm was the most bizarre storm I ever witnessed because it was all over the place,” she said. “It tore up this whole state.”