YAWKEY, W.Va. — Lincoln County native Tabitha Jarrell says she’ll return to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where she’s lived for the past 15 months despite the damage the island sustained last month from Hurricane Maria.
“Just because I live on an island doesn’t mean I’m just going to throw my hands up and just leave. That’s where I live. That’s where I work. That’s where my friends are now.”
Jarrell spoke to MetroNews Monday from her parents Lincoln County home. She’s been back in the states for a few days after spending more than a week trying to get transportation for a previously scheduled trip from St. Croix back to West Virginia.
Jarrell, who works for the federal government, was in her St. Croix condo on Sept. 19 when Maria moved through. At the height of the hurricane the sustained winds were between 175 and 215 miles per hour.
“I’d never actually experienced wind that was that severe. We were standing at the sliding glass doors and although you could hear it, I put my hands on the doors and thought they were going to blow in,” Jarrell said.
She and a friend and her pet rabbit spent the next five hours in a downstairs bathroom. What she saw after Maria moved through will be hard to forget.
“There was glass, debris and tree limbs. Unless you’ve lived through that kind of wind it’s hard to describe,” she said.
Her condo sustained some wind damage but the biggest problem came from standing water on her roof that poured through her upstairs and downstairs ceilings. There’s still no electricity in her home. She’s been trying to get in touch with her landlord but communication remains spotty at best on St. Croix nearly two weeks after the storm.
“Getting electricity is the biggest problem,” Jarrell said. “Some say it will take three to six months to get power restored.”
Jarrell was able to make it Puerto Rico last Tuesday and then back to the states by last Saturday. She plans to spend the next several days getting what she needs to head back to the place she now calls home.
“Getting a generator shipped down there is my main goal right now–so that we can have some power,” she said. “I’m going to have to find another place to live when I get there because obviously my condo is going to have to be completely redone.”
Jarrell worked for years at the federal courthouse in Charleston until making a decision last summer to continue her employment career on St. Croix and despite Hurricane Maria she doesn’t regret that decision, she said.
“Just because one thing happens and your home is destroyed that doesn’t mean you just give up and completely move out of the place that you live. You stay there and rebuild,” she said. “It’s just going to be a process.”