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  • Writer's pictureAt Home in The Tropics

IrMaria (2017 Hurricanes)

It has been 8 months since hurricanes Irma and Maria hit St. Thomas and the surrounding islands. We decided that now was a good time to remove the "Hurriane Update" from our home page, and post here with a more detailed update. This is by no means comprehensive, but we wanted to give everyone some idea of our experiences over the last several months (before our full-length novel comes out).

We were on site for both of the storms and all of the aftermath and cleanup. Two adults, one child and a tough dog spent all day, every day, together for a few months. The storms were wild, and the cleanup was depressing and exhausting as you can see in our social media posts. We had no air conditioning, lights or fans. No cold or fresh food. It was hot, humid and damp. Some nights we slept in the car or outside. Flies and mosquitoes were everywhere. We went everywhere with a flashlight. And we cleaned, painted and repaired for 10 or so hours a day. There was a curfew in place for several months, and few if any places to go out... lines were long at the stores and inventory on everything was low. There were no flights or boats going in our out, so this is where we stayed.

We played 4,000 hands of cards, read several books and each of us now qualifies as a professional Monopoly player. We were bored and tired, but we never once felt unsafe. In fact, our neighbors and fellow islanders were overly helpful, patient and welcoming. We checked in on each other, cleared the roads together, procured food and water and diesel fuel for others and shared our homes and supplies. We shared experiences while waiting in an hour-long line at the grocery store or gas station. Along the way, some life long friends were made and a profound appreciation for electricity was formed in our psyche.

We were extremely fortunate to not sustain significant property damage from either of the Category 5 hurricanes. Every roof and window held, and every guest room stayed dry and unscathed. Every tree was stripped of leaves and branches, and it seemed that every one of them ended up on our property. Being stubborn and tough, and not having much else to do, we promptly got to the task of cleaning and repairing our home and business. That was not an easy task with no hardware or paint stores open. With hard work and a bit of luck, we opened on schedule in November 2017, less than two months after the storms. It was fantastic to have guests again.

The storms gave us a new appreciation for modern living. You don't realize how much you depend on electricity, running water and refrigeration until you don't have them for weeks and months on end. It came to the point were we didn't even both switching the light switch on, because we knew it wouldn't work. We also had to be concerned about potable water because the water in our cistern was useless without the electric pump. But, we never experienced a day where we could not get water or food. It may not have been a gourmet meal, or even a well balanced one, but no one was hungry. No one was thirsty.

Most importantly, we were encouraged by every single friend and past guest who reached out to check on our family and our home. It meant more to us that we can express. The connection we have with our guests is the best and most surprising aspect of this venture. Fixing our home up again so that others can enjoy it is what kept us going for so long.

In the future, we hope to put together a short book for the lobby with our personal photos, stories and rememberances of the event. For now, we have the "Category 10" publication available from The Daily News for guests who want to read more about IrMaria.

Right now, the island overall looks very good. Many recent guests have remarked that they could not tell we had been through two major storms. Most attractions & restaurants are open for business and some new ones have opened as well. The beaches are lovely and the vegetation grew back more quickly that we could have imagined. Come on back and see for yourself!

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