Josh Laird had no clue he’d be riding out Tropical Storm Lee in his Volkswagen van when he checked into a campsite Thursday for a two-day fishing trip to Florida’s Fort Pickens Campground.

Laird was among 71 campers stranded for more than 48 hours after Lee’s pounding waves and high surge swamped and shut down the only road in and out at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

With no way to fish in the stormy weather, the 23-year-old Pensacola man said he subsisted on canned soup and water out of the campground faucet.

“The first thing I’m doing? Getting a huge steak,” he said Tuesday afternoon while waiting in a long line of recreational vehicles, cars and trucks poised to be escorted out of the Gulf Islands National Seashore by park officials.

With the first break in the weather on Tuesday, four bulldozers began at 7 a.m. pushing tons of sand and water to the side of a three-mile stretch of road.

Six hours later, most of the 2-to-4-feet deep of soggy, quicksand-like sand was cleared from one lane, a path wide enough to get Airstreams and Winnebagos out.

Most park visitors survived the ordeal in style in their RVs and praised seashore personnel.

“We’re happy campers,” Sarah Lowery, of Branson, Mo., said about her ordeal. “We knew the road was prone to flooding. So, we knew what we were getting into. This is what camping is about.”

She and her husband, Vernon, were among the second wave of 10 campers waiting to be escorted out.

“This was the most awesome Labor Day vacation ever,” she said. “I know not everyone would say that. But we were out here with nature. The park rangers and campground host checked on everyone to make sure no one was short on supplies. People tried to make the most of it.”

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