Man Accepts Challenge to Stay in a Cardboard Box During Hurricane: Did He Make It?


Aug. 31 2023, Published 4:11 p.m. ET

While most residents along Florida’s northern coast were evacuating or battening down the hatches in preparation for incoming tropical storm Idalia, TikTok creator Justin Schmidt was building a hurricane shelter out of cardboard boxes.

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Idalia hit Florida on Aug. 30, 2023 as a Category 3 hurricane, with torrential rains and winds at about 125 mph. So how did Schmidt fair during the storm in his cardboard box shelter? Let’s look at what happened when Schmidt tried to ride out Idalia in a shelter made of cardboard boxes from Home Depot.

A hurricane map on a screen
Source: iStock
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This creator was challenged to build a hurricane shelter out of cardboard boxes.

The first question probably on your mind is, “Why?” Why would anyone in their right mind stay in a cardboard box fort during a hurricane? The answer in Schmidt’s case is because someone told him to.

Schmidt’s 6 million TikTok followers tune in to see the crazy stunts he does at the direction of random people he meets. He plays a game similar to the old Mad Libs, where he has a sign with a sentence on it that has two or three words left blank. He asks random people he meets in public or online to “fill in the blanks with whatever you want.” When they do, he performs the challenge.

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The cardboard box challenge came from a guy who Schmidt approached in Walmart with a sign that said, “I stayed overnight in _________ during a MAJOR hurricane with nothing to eat but _______.” The contestant in Schmidt’s game filled the blanks with “cardboard box” and “anchovies.”

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"There’s a massive hurricane headed straight for me, and somebody challenged me to stay overnight in a cardboard box," Schmidt said in an Aug. 29, 2023 TikTok video. "So I went to Home Depot and built this giant shelter out of cardboard boxes, and I’m really hoping it holds up cause this hurricane just keeps on getting bigger."

The video shows him going to Home Depot, buying a bunch of extra large boxes, and then making his “hurricane shelter,” which is basically a bunch of boxes held together with black electrical or duct tape. The shelter roof was a giant tarp secured to the boxes with more tape.

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He told his millions of followers that he would be live streaming in the cardboard box shelter throughout the entire night. “Wish me luck,” he said.

His followers didn’t seem to think his chances of surviving the night were very good. “Guys don’t expect a part 2,” said one follower. “Part 2 is coming live from heaven,” commented another. “Rest in peace my bro,” said another follower.

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The cardboard box shelter didn’t make it.

A followup TikTok video shows Schmidt in the cardboard shelter he built as the rain from the storm starts. Per the instructions of the challenge, he was only eating anchovies.

“Even though the box was getting hit with torrential downpours and wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour, to my surprise, it’s holding up pretty good,” Schmidt said at first.

Then the roof started leaking. “Before I knew it, we were taking in so much water, and I thought I had a chance until the entire roof literally caved in on me, and I was forced to evacuate,” Schmidt said. He then retreated to his house to ride out the rest of the storm.

In the morning, Schmidt walked outside to see what’s left of the shelter: a pile of soaked cardboard.

If you are experiencing unusual weather in your location, check out our stories about how climate change affects the weather, how to read an air quality alert, and the differences between tornado watches and warnings. For those in emergency situations, please consult the National Weather Service safety guidelines for how to proceed.

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