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Loudoun County women recall Hurricane Irma experience

From left, Ronda Powell, Adrienne Lyne, Jenny McMahon and Maureen Alvarez on their trip. Courtesy Photo
It was supposed to be a simple, five-day girls getaway, but it turned into an adventure they will never forget.

When Hurricane Irma hit St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands last Wednesday, four Loudoun residents were stuck on the island waiting out the storm of a lifetime.

It all started as a 50th birthday bucket-list item organized by Adrienne Lyne of Round Hill with friends Jenny McMahon, also of Round Hill, and Maureen Alvarez and Ronda Powell of Hillsboro.

Powell, who is co-owner of Hillsboro's Old 690 Brewery, said they arrived in sunny St. John on Sept. 2 at the Westin Resort. After a “glorious day” on the beach, they came back to their hotel rooms to find a note on the door stating a hurricane was approaching and they had to make plans to get off the island. They were encouraged to head to St. Thomas, also a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but not expected to be in the direct path of the storm.

The next morning, after a flurry of phone calls, it became apparent there were no flights available, with the exception of a seat on one flight out for $1,400, which was “major price gauging,” Powell said.

There were no hotel rooms available in St. Thomas either, so they made the decision to stay put with 300 other hotel guests and prepare for Irma's arrival.

On Tuesday, they went out and bought supplies, water and food to last a few days.

“What was amazing to me was the shelves were full and there wasn't a chaotic scene in the stores. Anything you needed you could find. People were very calm and at peace. They were amazing,” Powell said.

The storm hit midday Wednesday between noon and 6 p.m. Powell's friends hunkered down in a back bedroom, while she sat in a small hallway to listen in case they were told to get out of that area of the hotel.

“The wind was loud, but the weirdest part was when the 'eye' passed by we felt like we were taking off in an airplane. Our ears kept popping due to the pressure. It was crazy,” Powell said.

While there was destruction all around them, Powell said she was never scared. “We had a huge prayer chain at home.”

The next day they were able to survey the damage. Every building on the resort suffered roof and window damage, and every leaf on every tree was gone, they said.

“There were homes right [near] us that were completely gone,” Powell said.

Lyne described the scene as “devastating.”

“In a matter of hours, the island went from green to brown and it looked like a war zone. People lost everything,” she said.

The next two days were spent helping resort staff gather debris and getting to know their neighbors at the hotel. They lost power and water for about a day and a half, but the hotel staff was accommodating and they never ran out of food or water.

By Saturday morning the hotel made arrangements for them to take a charter boat to Puerto Rico, followed by flights home on Sunday, much to the relief of worried family and friends at home.

“I honestly did not feel that we would make it off that island. Buildings were not structurally sound and there was another storm coming. I was so relieved, and the tears just flowed when we landed at JFK Airport,” Lyne said.

Lyne said she thinks about the people on the islands and worries about their ability to rebuild after such destruction.

“I will go back when it is safe. We need to support them and help them rebuild,” she said.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @KarenGGraham.


Why did they go in the first place.  Irma was well known by Sept. 2.  SMH.

SterlingLocal - If they are telling you to go to St. Thomas and there are no hotel rooms where are you to stay in St. Thomas?

“No hotel rooms available in St Thomas”...sounds like first world problems to me. The swim up bar was destroyed and there was no room service. It was armegedon I tell you!

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