SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - At least 10 people were pronounced dead and thousands more across the northern Caribbean were left homeless as of Thursday after Hurricane Irma blew through the region. A San Diego native who's lived on the island of St. Thomas, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, for the last 10 years was one of the lucky ones.
Robert Ba-at and his friends in St. Thomas bunkered down Wednesday morning as Irma came roaring in, and on Thursday, though rattled, they found time to step away from the devastation and tell their story.
"The rain just kept pouring and pouring. It was nonstop," Ba-at said. "All we saw was white. Water twirling, you know, howling of the wind. The trees all fighting for their life--bending, bending 'til they broke."
Ba-at said the storm swept through the heart of the island, taking the electricity and its only hospital along with it. Unsure what to do, Ba-at went to his friend Stuart Scott's house thinking it was his safest option. The scene there, though, was straight out of "Poltergeist."
As of Tuesday, the rear wall of Scott's House was lined with windows and its sliding glass door served as a portal to a wrap-around deck that offered panoramic ocean views. The storm peeled the wall from the hurricane-proof home's foundation and ceiling, leaving it open to the elements. The deck was picked up, crumbled and littered along the hillside leading up to the home.
"I was basically fighting for my life, or thinking about my life, for sure," Scott said over the phone. "My cousin and I were sitting in a laundry room and the door was trying to get blown off and he was holding onto it for dear life."
"We found pieces of other people's homes and windshields in our yard," Scott added. "It's absolutely insane. There's nothing that can mentally prepare your for it."
Scott was able to get his wife and two daughters off of the island before the storm hit. They first went to Naples, Florida, but were forced to evacuate to Georgia, only to be sent away once more and eventually found shelter in Nashville. Both Ba-at and Scott say they feel lucky just to be alive.
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