Duluthian Living In Virgin Islands: Hurricane Irma ‘Changed Me’

DULUTH, Minn. – Laura Von Lokken, a lifelong Duluthian, recently moved to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands with her husband Paul. They were hunkered down for Hurricane Irma as it blasted the island as a category-five storm with winds around 180 mph. FOX 21’s Dan Hanger reached Laura via Facebook Messenger video chat who says the experience before, during and now after the storm is something that’s changed her life forever.

“This, I was afraid. This, I was truly afraid,” Laura said.

“It was so loud you have to fight to scream to talk – even to tell Paul to get away from the window — to say anything. You just have to fight,” Laura explained of the struggle during the height of the storm.

Irma would ravage St. Thomas with power lines down, trees uprooted and buildings torn apart.

“You do the best you can. You survive. When you think of your rations are water and maybe some peanut butter and celery. You go to convenience stores. We tried three places to get gas today, and it’s just not there,” Laura explained.

Laura’s condo was saved through all of this, but survival mode is in high gear with 100-degree weather, no electricity, no air conditioning, and food and water difficult to find.

“My friend TJ — he is a big weight lifter and he was going down in the heat and there was a truck full of food. And I went up to him and I said please, can I have something, please. And I’ve never done that in my life and I tell you, I’m going to think twice before someone comes and asks me for food again because I was that person today – and water,” Laura said.

And as for water, you’d think water would be available with the ocean surrounding the island, but Laura says think again.

“I have ocean 40 feet from balcony and you can’t jump into it because it’s too strewn up and you have to wait for the CDC to come check the water — and that’s all around the islands,” Laura said.

While it’s almost impossible to leave the island right now with the airport shut down, Laura says she plans stay put with humanity coming first.

“It’s changed me. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. People are sticking together. It reminds me of the videos of 9/11,” Laura said. “This is our island, this is our home. We are going to say as long as we can — as long as we can — and do what we can to help.”

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