Residents of US Virgin Islands dig out and help each other after hurricane Irma

There was only one staticky satellite line available to residents of St. John attempting to reach family and friends on the US mainland Friday morning. On Wednesday, the US Virgin islands were hit by hurricane Irma, whipping through the area as a Category 5 storm with wind speeds up to 185 miles per hour for more than 24 hours.

“I’ve had to sit through a Taliban gunfight, and this was scarier,” Laura Strickling told The Associated Press. Ms. Strickling moved to St. Thomas with her husband three years ago. She used to visit him in Afghanistan when he worked there.

“The noise [of Irma] was just deafening. It was so loud we thought the roof was gone. The windows were boarded up, so it was hot and we had no AC, no power,” Strickling said. 

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As the storms recede, reports on the damage left behind trickled out slowly Friday as residents and visitors to the islands contacted family members. Before and after photos posted by residents on Facebook and Instagram show the island’s trees stripped of their leaves and boats tossed like discarded toys along the shore.

Teri Wine, a resident of St. John and a concierge at The Westin St. John Resort Villas, was in South Carolina during the storm. She has been attempting to contact friends and neighbors since the hurricane hit. So far, she has been able to talk to a neighbor who reports that it took him two hours to walk a quarter mile down a road because of all the destruction in his path.

Four people were reported killed in the US Virgin Islands, according to the Associated Press. Considerable damage has occurred to property and infrastructure.

The roads across both St. Thomas and St. John are narrow and steep. On a clear day, driving the 10 miles from one end of St. John to the other could take 45 minutes. 

Melody Smith, a property manager for the past 12 years on St. John, watched news of hurricane Irma from her summer residence on Chebeague Island, Maine. Like many island residents, she and her husband, Tom Sheets, go off island during the months of August and September when the weather gets hot. Before leaving in August, they did all they could to prepare, but the eye of the storm passed close to her neighborhood in Coral Bay.

She’s assuming the worst for her one bedroom wooden house. And she doesn’t have insurance.

“Most residents just can’t afford premiums and the insurance companies won’t insure wooden houses,” says Ms. Smith. For many,…

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