St. Thomas resident says it's like "living in a post-apocalyptic movie" after Irma

Sep 11, 2017

Credit Laura Strickling

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, now a tropical storm, the U.S. Virgin Islands are trying to clean up after its devastating impact on the region.

This was the first big storm for Laura Strickling and her family, who have lived on the island of St Thomas for three years.

"I didn’t really sit down and say what do I need, how much do I need, I just started grabbing. But it’s really expensive to stock up for this sort of thing. So as I’m filling my cart I'm thinking, we can't afford to spend $500."

She said they are no strangers to difficult living situations having spent 3 years living in Afghanistan, but this destruction is unprecedented. Cell phones only work in certain places and data only works at night. With no electricity or running water, the family is collecting rainwater to do dishes and wash themselves.

Strickling, her husband and 1-year-old daughter are safe but are worried of what might happen as food runs out and people get desperate. They’ve heard rumors of the military coming but have yet to see any aid.

"I can’t tell you how much we need more personnel on the ground. We need the military here. We don’t need 700 marines we need 10,000 marines. We need a physical, visible presence keeping people calm, establishing rule of law and being a visible security."

Credit Laura Strickling

The hospital is gone, wires are down and trees are completely bare. Strickling says their family doctor and pediatrician are opening soon for emergency cases, but they are on the other side of the island, which is now nearly impossible to get to.

Her family lives on a mountainside.

"We had no idea how close our neighbors were because we're surrounded by palm trees and vegetation. And all of a sudden that’s all gone and we're like hey we have neighbors! We had no idea! It is just surreal; it really feels like we are living in a post-apocalyptic movie."

With radio towers down, she said a local market down the road has become a hub for information such as updates on the curfew.

"We're only allowed to be out from noon until six and we're told if you're out after that you'll be arrested. This is all word of mouth. The "coconut telegraph," people and neighbors telling you what they heard."

Strickling won Rochester's Classical Idol competition in 2015.