It's almost like "Gilligan's Island" on a grand scale: 18 students from Weis, Austria, came to New Jersey for a two-week visit, but Hurricane Sandy blew their travel plans off course.
Now, they're stuck until Tuesday.
The Bundesgymnasium/ Bundesrealgymnasium (that's the name of the school) students came as part of annual exchange student program with Watchung Hils Regional, arriving Oct. 19.
Host families in Green Brook, Long Hill, Warren and Watchung helped the students get familiar with the normal course of life in the New Jersey, exploring the beaches at Lavallette and Point Pleasant, checking out Philadelphia and taking in a Broadway show.
Then, the night before thier return flight, Hurricane Sandy threw everything into turmoil, cancelling their flight back.
"We are very, very grateful to the host families," teacher Renate Teufelberger said. "It was very nice of them to host us—and then to extend it another week."
The extra week has been challenging—keeping track of 18 students and trying to reach anxious parents in Austria while the area experienced telephone breakdowns and the power outage.
"The parents at home are worried—it was difficult to get to them," Teufelberger said. She and Helga Tobisch are staying at the home of Kathy Winter, spending much of their time checking on their students in an hours-long series of phone calls and message relays.
WHRHS German teacher Claude Chapel has been driving throughout the four towns daily to check on the students, helping them get together and making sure they are comfortable as the power outage extends.
Ironically, this is the second time visiting Austrian students have witnessed a storm blow out the electrical power supply: last year's group was in town at the time of the October nor'easter snowstorm that left many area residents without power for nearly a week.
"They said something about a problem with the electricity," Teufelberger said.
The students will head home Tuesday, taking a chartered bus to Washington to catch a fllght there.