Ok, now that I have a minute I will try and tell our tale.
Even though we kept thinking/hoping/praying that Irma was going to turn north, we started prepping for her five days before she hit. We went to st Thomas and stocked up on food that would last us for a month, flashlights, batteries and luckily a chainsaw.
The house is a fortress with thick cement walls, thick wooden doors and hurricane shutters. We spent countless hours securing the hurricane shutters and reenforcing them with plywood in some spots.
"No Worries Mon" was sailed to "Hurricane Hole" where we spent a day tying her to an underwater chain system and putting out massive anchors with countless amounts of chain. The "Lady K" was hauled out and secured behind the fire station in Coral bay. The dinghys were hauled and tied down.
We bought gasoline for the generator and filled up everything that could even be remotely considered a gas can. We stocked up on water, filled the coolers with ice. As the storm got closer the pace became a little more frantic and the air was tense every where we went. But I can honestly say that I don't think we could have been more prepared then we were.
In our house was our family, my nephew Alec who was visiting (supposed to fly out the day of the storm) Paul Madigan, Nell Madigan and their daughter who we share the house with. Ryan Wollesen and Caitlin Herlihy and Tommy Young Jr. also came over to stay with us because they lived in wood houses in Coral Bay.
When the storm first started it was all fun and games. I kept going out just to watch it. When it really started to get windy I remember looking at the radar and seeing that we were not even close to the bad stuff and thinking that we may be in trouble.
We lost power pretty early on and then cell service and internet. We kind of knew this was going to happen just because service is spotty on a good day in the VI.
As the winds started to really ramp up, we lost our first piece of plywood that was supporting a front facing slider door. The hurricane shutter got ripped out of the wall next with an ear piercing shriek. This was starting to get very real at this point. We retreated to down stairs. As the guys were just getting a few more things to bring down, the massive roof covering our front porch tore off and landed in the pool. The only way to describe the sound is to imagine a freight train driving through the house. We were pretty sure that the whole roof was coming off at this point. As we ran for the door, the slider blew out, another hurricane shutter flew off and that window exploded. The storm was sucking the air out of the house, all of our ears were popping and it was taking your breath away. We tried to close the door but it was like fighting a giant on the other side who was trying to get in.
We first tried to screw the door into the frame, but they just got ripped out. We finally ended up using a chain and boat anchor, in addition to the screws to hold it shut. The wind was screaming at a fever pitch and we had to yell to be heard. I'll never forget coming downstairs and seeing my family and friends pressed up against the wall in the hallway. Just then the hurricane shutters started coming off down stairs. The guys started emptying out our pantry area where we had stored a lot of out door furniture. This was in the back corner of the house and was the most protected place left. It was quickly dubbed "the Alamo", because it was legitimately our last stand. We got everyone in there and then ran back out to the living room to pile all the furniture against the sliders to keep them from caving in.
At one point I was standing against the massive sleeper sofa and was still getting pushed several inches as the storm tried to force her way into our house. Going back to the Alamo we quickly realized that water was becoming a problem. There was legitimate waves coming under the door from up stairs and a steady water fall coming down stairs. We had a few inches in the Alamo and it was rising. We pulled out cistern covers off (which are in the living room) so that the water would drain into them. We were grabbing brooms and cookie sheets and anything we could to push the water into the cisterns. As we hunkered down all we could do was pray. I actually thought "this is it, this storm is going to kill us all". We had no idea if we had a roof anymore. The kids and the dogs were so amazing and stayed so calm through all of this ! At one point were passing around a giant plastic container of cheese puffs, by floating it over to each other.
Our plan was that once the eye was over us, we were going to go out and secure everything we could and brace for the second half. We never got that reprieve, we just got hammered by the eye wall and as the storm shifted we just kept staying right on the eye wall. I'll never forget the feeling when we could hear the wind stop screaming so loud and knowing that the worst was over. Knowing that we had made it through the worst and we were still alive. When the winds got to a point where I was not going to get blown off my feet, Rya, Tommy and I ran up the hill to try and find a safer bill for us to stay in. After checking 5 of them we realized that we were our only option and we had to stay where we were.
As quickly as she came, Irma left. We were wet, sticky, filthy, exhausted and drained, but we were all alive. The next morning we divided into a team to stay and start clean up at the house and Ryan, Caitlin, Alec and I would try and open up our driveway. We prob had roughly a thousand yards to clear to get to the street. Trees, branches and telephone poles. We came out and went to the right first. We cleared the street till we came to someone's full roof in the road that we could not get through. We turned around and fought, sawed, clawed our way through about a mile of gift hill road to get to centerline. Once there we could make our way into town.
The only way to describe what we were seeing is it just looked like a bomb had gone off. People were stumbling around in the streets in a daze. I've never hugged so many people in my life. The next several days were a blur of trying to get more food for the upcoming weeks/months. Megan, Nell, Paul and Tommy worked like mad people making the house back into a home and cooking and cleaning. Our plan was to stay. As the days progressed it started to get very dangerous. It would take me so long to write down all the stories from those days. Anyway the pendulum shifted to far and we made the decision that we needed to get to safety.
That was such a hard conversation to have with the girls and there was not a dry eye. After we told them, Bridget goes "Daddy, it's like when the build a sky scraper, you have to dig dig down till you hit rock bottom, then you start building up and make something beautiful". She is so amazing !
It then became an issue on how we were going to get off the island. In the end I got the call over my VHF radio that a boat was on the dock and we had to go! I flew back to the house and we had the jeeps packed up in under five minutes. Probably the worst part of everything I had seen over the last few days, was my dogs knowing we were leaving, frantically trying to get into the jeeps and my poor poor Katie holding onto them for dear life screaming. I will never ever forget that.
We got to the dock and put 19 people in a 38ft center console boat to travel the 46ish miles across open ocean to get to PR. We looked like (and I guess were) a boat of refugees. Chris and Megan Ramsey 's friend (Zandra) who is the GM of the Wyndham met us at the dock with a van, hot meals and water. It was the first time since the hurricane that I felt like I could take a breath and that my family was safe.
There are so many people that helped us and gave us supply's when we thought we were staying and who made it possible for us to be here and alive. Liz Horner, Steve Horner, Megan Ramsy, Chris Ramsy, Ryan and Caitlin, Tommy Shots, the Maddigan's, Capt. Richard Perez, Zandra. I know I'm missing some and I thank you and love you all! We are also so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our Massachusetts community!
You guys are incredible and I can't wait to see you ! I think that's enough for now
As many of you know, Nathan, Megan, Bridget and Katie live on St. John's, US Virgin Islands. They were there when Hurricane Irma hit. As you've heard in news reports, the island was devasted and The Fletchers have evacuated from the island.
They have lost their house, their business and had to leave the island with the clothes on their backs. Everything had to be left behind.
Now is the time for family & friends (and anyone else) to lend a hand. All monies will be used to help them with basic necessities they now need (clothing, food, toiletries, etc) that we take for granted.
Please give whatever you can to my cousin and his family and know that your generous donation is very much appreciated!- Barbie (Fletcher) McDonnell
DonationsSee top donations
- Joanne Ziniti
- Marie McDonnell
- Ryan Killman
- Tina Anderson
- Joyce & Dave McDonnell
Organizer and beneficiary
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more