THEY say lightning doesn’t strike twice - but hurricanes do, at least for one retired bus driver from Newport.

Alan Hartley has been named an honorary New Yorker this week, after stepping up to help in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane, while visiting the city with his wife.

And this is not the first time Mr Hartley, from St Julians, has played the good samaritan overseas in the aftermath of havoc caused by extreme weather.

Almost four years ago, he used his bus driving skills to help take islanders on the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean island of Saint-Martin to its tiny airport for evacuation.

And he was behind the wheel again in the Big Apple this week, when Hurricane Henri hit New York state on Sunday, while he and wife Pat were visiting their daughter Rhiannon, a student at New York University on a sponsorship with United Nations College Trust.

“We arrived last week, and Hurricane Henri took us by surprise,” said Mr Hartley, who added that it hit at 6pm on Sunday.

“Our hotel was badly damaged by wind, with many glass panels coming off balconies.

“At around midnight they decided to relocate us to a shelter in the local subway station.”

The couple arrived at the shelter at around 1am.

“It was well-equipped with camping beds, plenty of food, and even a three-piece band for entertainment,” said Mr Hartley.

“Early in the morning they decided to start taking people back to JFK and La Guardia airports, as the kitchen block in the hotel was badly damaged, and a roof stack had fallen into the lobby.”

They were using small minibuses to take more than 1,000 people to the airports - and that is when he got the idea to help.

“I’m a retired Newport Bus driver and knew there was a bus shed across the road from the hotel. I also knew I just had to do something to help,” said Mr Hartley, who got permission from the bus owners and their insurance company, and at 5am began to drive people to the airport.

“I was allowed to drive, so started transporting people from the hotel to JFK, taking a local with me to provide guidance,” he said.

“Over the course of the day, I ferried 387 people to the airport, much quicker than they would have got there by minibus. It was certainly a tiring night.”

Mr Hartley was met with a hero’s welcome on return from his last run and even had a special ‘thank you’ from the mayor of New York.

“I had a cheering hero’s welcome, but I’m no hero - just a bus driver who felt I had to do something,” he said.

“Later that evening, I was asked to shake hands with Bill de Blasio, mayor of NYC.

“He handed me a card which read: ‘Alan, yesterday you were a retired bus driver. Today you’re an honorary New Yorker. Thank you so much for coming up with such a creative way to help. Next time you’re here, the strip-loin is on me! Your friend, Bill.’”

Along with the card, Mr Hartley was also given a small pendant which contains metal from the Statue of Liberty.

Mr and Mrs Hartley have spent the night in JFK airport too, while waiting for their flight home.

Hurricane Henri landed as a tropical storm in Rhode Island on Sunday afternoon and moved north-west through Connecticut and hitting Pennsylvania – while also flooding areas south-west, including New Jersey.

More than 140,000 homes lost power and caused chaos as bridges were closed, roads were flooded, and people were stranded in their vehicles.

In New York City, 1.94 inches of rain fell on Central Park between 10-11pm on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, and. 2.4 inches more had fallen by 6pm on Sunday.

As of early Monday morning, 6.32 inches of rain had fallen on Brooklyn.

Almost four years ago, it was “brutal” Hurricane Irma which disrupted Mr and Mrs Hartley’s silver wedding break in the Caribbean.

It was hoped Irma might spare Saint-Martin, but guests at the Hartleys’ resort had to take cover in an underground shelter when the situation changed.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Hartley told the Argus: “We went down as the storm got brutally bad.

“It was a big underground storm shelter with camping beds laid out, plenty of food, and even a three-piece band to provide some entertainment that night.

“We felt the full brunt. We could hear the building literally collapsing in parts above us. At one point a chimney stack fell into the shelter and pierced a hole in the roof.

“This got bigger and it was decided the shelter might not be sufficient to keep us safe, but the staff huddled us all into a smaller internal room.

“We were there for six hours or so, and it was terrible. People were being sick everywhere due to the heat.”

When they emerged the following morning, the resort’s entire kitchen block - from where they had gone underground - had been destroyed.

With people being taken to the island’s airport by golf cart, three or four at a time, Mr Hartley had an idea.

He knew there were undamaged coaches at the resort so got permission to take a staff member with him and, navigating roads strewn with the debris of destroyed homes, began to take people to the airport.

Helicopters were evacuating people to the neighbouring island of Saba, which was not so badly affected.