HUNTSVILLE, Al. — Despite the devastation across the state of Florida delivered by Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Virgin Islands is far worse.
West Virginia native and noted author Homer Hickam said the intensity of Irma over the U.S. Territory was almost indescribable
“Coral Bay, a little community on St. John where our house is, was hit with 185 mile per hour winds for about six hours,” Hickam explained on MetroNews “Talkline” Wednesday. “It went both directions. We didn’t even get a respite from the eye, we got it going both ways.”
Hickam owns a second home in St. John called Skyridge. It sits high on a hill, direclty in Irma’s path. He wasn’t there when the hurricane hit, but had been there two weeks ago doing his annual preparations for hurricane season.
“I had all my storm curtains up and had all the furniture inside the house, but it didn’t help,” he said. “I lost the roof to our house and also the whole upper floor.”
Hickam further noted the intensity of the winds on the island defoliated the entire area.
“Every leaf was blown off every tree and about 80 percent of the trees were uprooted,” he explained.
Some homes on the island which were newer construction survived the storm, but Hickam estimated about 75 percent were lost. The storm is a harsh blow to the island’s life blood of tourism.
“Our neighborhood rent their houses out and that’s part of their livelihood,” he said. “A lot of people think I’m rich and authors are rich, but I’m not rich. A lot of our money was tied up in that house. We did have insurance and we will rebuild, but it will take years of effort.”
The bigger worry for Hickam now is the continuing damaged. He’s unable to get to the island since all flights are cancelled. It’s expected to take at least six months to restore power to the island and in the meantime the exposed roof will mean additional damage to the home in the months to come.
“We’re pretty devastated right now,” Hickam said. “It’s going to be a long time before we can build back, but we will build back.”
The McDowell County native who wrote the book Rocket Boys which was eventually made into the hit movie October Sky has split his time between his home in Huntsville, Alabama and Skyridge in recent years. He uses the island getaway to pen many of his works since his retirement from NASA.