A Scripps Ranch family who survived an “extremely crazy” night as Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds battered the Caribbean is on their way home to California.
Jennifer Engels Madsen, her husband John Madsen and her sons Andy Madsen, a Cal Poly student and Ryan Madsen, a UC Davis student were vacationing in the British Virgin Islands before the core of the storm swept over the island on Wednesday, September 6.
At least 53 people across the Caribbean and the Southeastern United States were killed by Irma, which at its peak was a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest there is.
The family had rented a boat to hop from tiny island to tiny island on what should have been a dream vacation.
However, they were forced to hunker down, surrounded by mattresses on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, when the hurricane struck.
Hours after the storm passed the British Virgin Islands, friends of the Madsen family at Canyon Springs Church learned the family had survived the night.
Pastor Jack Hawkins said the Madsens wandered into a hotel, barricaded themselves in a bathroom with mattresses up against the wall and charged their phones before the hurricane hit.
“Made it through the worst,” read the post attributed to Jennifer Engels Madsen. “Extremely crazy. A lot of our hotel was destroyed and we took in other displaced people.”
She went on to say, “Never been through anything so scary in my life.”
One week after the hurricane, the Madsens were in Puerto Rico on Tuesday and planning on flying home to San Diego Wednesday.
Madsen used Facebook to update her friends and family to thank them for their prayers.
The family had access to text messages and spent the week helping local homeless and surveying the damage, capturing images of cars overturned and left on top of boats and a battered harbor area.
On September 9, the government of the British Virgin Islands established a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The island was getting assistance from the United Kingdom in the form of thousands of troops and a $32 million aid package.
On Wednesday, FEMA officials have said they will be on the ground in the US Virgin Islands soon to get the loan assistance up and running but the priority was to make sure residents had food, shelter, and medical care.