Though little Gabriella Coane is less than a month old, she has already experienced two historic events.
Gabriella was born on August 20, just a week before Hurricane Harvey pummeled cities around Texas, leading to the evacuation and displacement of tens of thousands of residents. Parents Bruce and Jessica Coane took shelter in their Houston apartment with their newborn as the hurricane flooded large parts of the city.
“To see all the suffering going on was quite awful, everyone’s possessions were on the curbs,” Bruce, who volunteered at the George R. Brown Convention Center during the storm, tells PEOPLE. “Then we heard about the exploding chemical plants and how they were spewing toxic fumes into the air.”
The couple was in Houston in the days leading up to Harvey so they could be near their OGBYN when Gabriella was born. But the family has another home in Miami (Bruce has commuted between the two cities over the last two decades for work), so they figured exploding chemical plants were about a good enough reason as any to hightail it to Miami. But because Gabriella had not received her vaccinations yet, taking their baby on a plane to Miami was out of the question for the couple.
By that time, Harvey had moved on to Beaumont, Texas, where the interstate allowing for a straight route to Florida is located. To avoid the storm, the couple needed to take an extended 1,200-mile-long road trip through five states.
“We spent the night in Dallas, and the next day we drove about 10 to 12 hours to Destin, Florida, and spent the night there,” Bruce recalls, adding that they took frequent stops to burp and feed Gabriella, who slept for much of the ride. “The next day, we drove 10 hours to Miami—that’s when we heard Hurricane Irma was headed our way!”
Because Bruce has lived in the Miami area for more than 20 years, the approaching Category 4 storm didn’t worry him too much. But assertive friends eventually influenced the couple to take Gabriella and evacuate the city.
“We had so many friends saying that we shouldn’t stay with a newborn baby with a hurricane coming,” he says. “So with enough people telling us, we decided to get out of Miami.”
After another few hours of driving, the family eventually found a hotel in a small town in Alabama. Since they had already made it that far, they soon decided to head back to Texas.
The historic storms resulted in between $150 billion and $200 billion in damage to Texas and Florida. Harvey caused at least 70 deaths when it made landfall at the end of August, and Irma became the most ferocious storm ever measured in the Atlantic with sustained winds of 185-mph.
All-in-all, Gabriella has had an eventful start to her life, and her parents will have quite the story to tell her when she is older.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bruce says.
Next in line is getting Gabriella’s vaccination shots completed so she can go on planes, because the road trips aren’t over just yet for the couple.
“Jessica has to go back to Florida this weekend because she was accepted into a startup incubator program,” Bruce adds. “So, she is going to have to go through the 1,200-mile drive again, and with the baby!”
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