Minnesota woman survives Hurricane Irma on U.S. Virgin Islands

- A Twin Cities woman who survived Hurricane Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands is now back in Minnesota.

"It sounded like a freight train. If you were standing under a bridge and a freight train was going over you, that's how it sounded. That's how it felt," Samantha Kaffenbarger said.

We first met Kaffenbarger, who moved to St Thomas two years ago to manage a bar, just before Hurricane Irma ravaged the island last week.

"I've only been through one tornado in Minnesota. I feel like that has not prepared me for what is going to come but time will tell and we'll see what's going to happen," Kaffenbarger said at the time.

The next day, 200 mph winds were battering the island, as Kaffenbarger and her friends battened down the hatches at her boss's house.

She could see an iguana trying to ride out the storm on a shrub outside their window, but by the time Irma passed, the reptile was gone.

"We could see wind and trees. We saw a tree snap right in front of us. We were doing anything we could to keep our minds off of it," Kaffenbarger said.

While the house Kaffenbarger was in escaped pretty much unscathed, the same can't be said of her place of employment, the St. Thomas Yacht Club just down the hill.

She eventually got off the island on a powerboat with nine other people for a three hour ride to Puerto Rico before flying home.

"I've been on multiple boat trips to the British Virgin Islands, and so it felt strange to have my belongings and [be] fully clothed and not in a swim suit and having a fun time," Kaffenbarger said.

Now that she is back on the mainland, Kaffenbarger is doing what she can for her friends on the island like Rosemarie Bell and her son, who are homeless after losing their roof during the storm. 

And with Texas and Florida, she hopes the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands aren't forgotten.

"Its just hard to think of everyone who is still there," Kaffenbarger said.

Kaffenbarger says she's trying to round up supplies to ship back to St. Thomas.


If you'd like to help victims of Hurricane Irma through Adopt a Family, click here.

You can also reach out to Virgin Island Strong Relief Fund.

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