Alberta man weathers Hurricane Irma in St. Thomas, prepares for Jose – Edmonton

An Alberta man in the U.S. Virgin Islands spent Saturday picking up the debris scattered by Hurricane Irma and screwing it onto a battered house, in which he plans to seek refuge when Hurricane Jose passes by on Sunday. 

“I think there’s a lot of people who are just terrified right now and a lot of people who have nothing left,” Eben Stolz, who lives in Beaumont, just south of Edmonton, told CBC News from St. Thomas in a telephone interview.

Stolz was visiting friends on the island. He used to live just offshore with his wife and two young daughters until a few months ago.

He’s been through hurricanes before, but said none of them held a candle to Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm on record. 

Irma knocked out the cellphone towers. Stolz climbed to the top of a hill on northeast of the island, where he was able to use a Garmin inReach device to get service through a satellite system. He communicated with CBC News and his family in Alberta on Saturday night before hunkering down to wait out the slightly smaller Hurricane Jose. 

He said normally his view from the hill is shrouded by a tree canopy, but with branches and leaves littering the ground, it’s now one of destruction. 

Eben Stolz climbed to the top of a hill in St. Thomas on Saturday so that he could get cellphone reception through a satellite system to make calls. The U.S. Virgin Island was hit by Hurricane Irma on Wednesday. Hurricane Jose is expected to hit on Sunday. (Supplied by Eben Stolz)

The eye of the storm

Stolz, his five friends and their two children spent the first part of last week preparing for Irma.

When the storm touched down on Wednesday morning, they were waiting for it on the lowest level of a house that had been divided into three apartments. 

The winds picked up around 8 a.m. Stolz said at first, they watched from the one unshuttered door as 20- foot (six-metre) waves crashed against the rocks of a usually calm bay, causing a landslide. 

At about 2 p.m., the eye of the storm passed and the winds switched direction, ripping the tin roof off a nearby house, sending it flying past them, he said. 

They locked up and huddled together in a windowless room in the middle of house, Stolz said. The ceiling was concrete, but within an hour it was leaking. 

Soaking wet, they scrambled to find buckets and pots and pans to catch the water, he said. They ended up ripping the tiles off the floor to allow it to run into the cisterns…

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