ST. THOMAS – It was supposed to be a joyous occasion and relaxing vacation for Indiana native Mike Coleman and his girlfriend Kelsey Costanza. They arrived in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday, September 2 to celebrate a friend’s wedding. But Hurricane Irma had other plans.
Coleman tells CBS4 that he lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands for two years. He was used to hearing about hurricane threats, but he says most every time they would miss the island. So he wasn’t too worried about traveling back to the Caribbean during hurricane season to celebrate his friend’s nuptials.
The wedding was scheduled to take place on Wednesday September 6, but when everyone realized how bad Irma was going to be, it was moved to Monday.
As Coleman and Costanza were preparing to leave on Tuesday, all flights were canceled. That’s when they realized they would be stuck on the island during the storm.
The couple was staying at a friend’s house, so they spent all day Tuesday boarding up the windows and gathering supplies. As the storm started to move in Wednesday morning, they had doubts the house would hold up, so they moved to a cement shed by the pool to ride out the storm. In total, there were six people and three dogs in the shed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Coleman says it felt as if they were trying to survive a tornado, but the anxiety was much worse because of how long it took Irma to pass over. They assessed the damage after the storm and quickly realized all of the infrastructure on the island was destroyed.
“Every tree is down. Almost everyone’s roofs are gone. It’s gonna take probably six months to even get power back in some of the places here on this island. It’s going to be a long struggle for a lot of people here. They need our help,” Coleman told CBS4.
Now, the biggest issue for the couple has been trying to get off the island. Coleman says there are no flights leaving from St. Thomas for the next week. Some ships have come to evacuate the elderly, sick, and children, but Coleman and Costanza have not been able to get on.
A cruise ship is supposed to come to the island on Tuesday. They’re hoping to board it and take it to Miami, where they will catch a flight back home. He says best case scenario they will be back in the continental U.S. on Thursday.
There’s no electricity and no running water on the island, so they haven’t been able to shower since last Tuesday. Their food supply is also getting low. “They’re saying there’s places where we can get stuff, we just haven’t been able to get there. We’re still on curfew on anytime other than noon to 6 p.m. The roads are semi-clear, but there’s poles down everywhere. No, we haven’t gotten any type of assistance of any sort at this point,” Coleman said.
Despite the horrific ordeal, Coleman says he will absolutely re-visit the island, and he wants to help rebuild it. “I hope it can get back to where it was, but it’s going to take a very longtime. I would definitely like to come back and help.”