La. students ride out Hurricane Irma on Caribbean island

Louisiana students were among those stuck on Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma pounded the island.

"We could see, hear and feel the storm when it hit," said Tori Smith, originally from DeRidder.

A student at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Smith and her wife, Jessica Erskins, have lived on the southern part of a Caribbean island since April. The Dutch country shares the island with Saint Martin.

"First we heard the wind coming and the rain," Smith described in a Facebook message on Tuesday. "And we could look out the windows and see the trees bending and small debris flying."

As Louisiana natives and graduates of the Louisiana Scholars' College at Northwestern State University, this wasn't their first hurricane experience.

But this was nothing like what they saw with Katrina or Rita.

"As it got closer to the eye wall the trees started breaking and flying past the windows and our ears were popping with the pressure dropping," Smith said. "Debris was banging against the building. One wall caved in in the cafe area and the building was flooding some."

"...Then the eye was over and the storm doubled. And the wind blew in the opposite direction and brought all the debris back. It was so strong that we couldn’t see out the windows sometimes. It was just white. The walls were shaking and the wind sounded like a train going by. Even once the worst was over the wind lasted all day."

Dutch News reported about 70 percent of homes on Sint Maarten were destroyed in the storm, with large parts of the island remaining inaccessible. Upon visiting, King Willem-Alexander described it as worse than a war zone.


But Smith considered their situation at AUC "fairly stable." They had power, and water came back on after a day or so. They had food and water and shared with those who didn't.

They found strength in numbers.

"We were concerned with security as there were armed looters out in the streets, but there was a lot of us so we stayed safe," she said.

hey were among the about 200 who remained on the island Monday, according to a post from the school's Facebook page about "overcoming logistical challenges" to evacuate them.

"We are working diligently on multiple evacuation options today that include continued US Military, ferry boat, and charter air," according to the post Monday. "Pushing hard on all levels local, national and international to overcome logistical challenges. About 200 remain on island. We are grateful that the first group of evacuees is now safely on the mainland and getting attention. We are fiercely committed to all of those who remain on-island and will provide updates here throughout the day."


© 2017 WWL-TV


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