Spartanburg woman survives Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean

Credit: Michaela Schmitt

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – As many in the Caribbean wait for Hurricane Maria’s arrival, one Upstate woman is giving us a better idea of what it’s like to ride out a major hurricane on the islands.

Michaela Schmitt of Spartanburg was in St. Thomas when Irma hit with her boyfriend, Tyler Miller.

The couple works at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef resort and stayed there during the storm.

“The windows, it just looks like you’re in a car wash,” Miller said. “You’re just getting pounded.”

He said the windows had hurricane proof glass but even that was getting tested as they say the eye wall of the hurricane battered the island.

“It’s vibrating and shaking,” Miller said. “For about three or four hours, the fire alarm is going off.”

They say it was a nerve-wracking experience.

“[They] Made us write our blood types in sharpie on us.” Schmitt said. “We taped our information to us.”

However, they say it was difficult living through the hurricane, but it was even harder seeing the destruction Irma left behind.

“There was one woman, there were no walls, no nothing, she’s just standing on the second floor of her home,” Schmitt said. “You could just see her…picking up her stuff.”

They say all of the power lines are down on the island.

“Roads you used to drive down that would take you four to five minutes to get somewhere was taking us hours to get there, and you have big military trucks, police everywhere,” Miller said.

The couple, without power or water, stayed on the island for a few days.

“It was just a completely different world than the one two days before,” Schmitt said.

However, they finally found relief via news on Facebook.

“A lot of these boats from Puerto Rico were coming over to drop off supplies, and on the way back, they were taking people,” Miller said.

He said the two grabbed backpacks and the cats hustled to make the next boat leaving the island.

They stayed in Puerto Rico until they could fly back to the states this past Friday. Now, they’re helping the people still on the island.

“A lot of people don’t have any other option but to stay because if they get off what are they going to do,” Miller said.

The couple says they want to go back and are confident the island will rebuild. They say for now, they’re taking it three months at a time. They believe Marriott is going to transfer them to another resort in the meantime.

As for relief efforts, people can donate here. Evacuees started the site where people in the Virgin Islands can list what they need, people can order it through the website, and Amazon covers the shipping cost. They say they’ve already garnered about $70,000 worth of supplies to be sent to the islands.