What to Know
- Irma was one of only four hurricanes that have reached maximum sustained wind speeds of 185 mph+
- Irma maintained those winds for 37 hours, the longest on record.
- Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on September 10, once in the Keys and again near Marco Island.
A Southern California couple say they felt their lives were in danger and they had to arm themselves with a machete and a kitchen knife in the hours after Hurricane Irma struck the small Caribbean island of St. Martin.
“It’s not every day you have to go in survival mode,” Dr. Lachlan Macleay said Tuesday on CNN.
“No one was going to protect us other than ourselves,” he said. “We had to rise to the occasion and just band together.”
Macleay and his wife Kaiann were vacationing at the Grand Case Beach Club on the French side of St. Martin when the Category 5 hurricane struck the island on Sept. 6.
They put a mattress and a dresser up against the hotel room sliding glass door. Then they moved into the bathroom when the winds picked up. Water seeped through the cracks of the wall and ceiling and collected to about 5 inches of water on the floor.
For three to four hours, they took cover in a door frame.
“The door frame against the metal door was really the safest spot,” said Kaiann Macleay.
She was grateful to be alive but when she saw the devastation, she was terrified.
“I was faced with the reality that we were in a really, really bad situation,” she said.
Lachlan Macleay, a physician at Palomar Health, sent a text message to a colleague describing what they faced.
“We are unable to evacuate. International Airport on Dutch side closed for repair until Saturday 9/16. No water, power and food will last for 2-3 days. Military is trying to control chaos but nothing is safe after dark, lots of looting. I was on patrol last night with machete until sun came up. We are in the remains of the Grand Case Beach Club on French side St Martin. Please alert media, Red Cross and state dept that we are in dire straights. Hurricane Jose to hit this afternoon. Double whammy!”
In the interview with CNN, Macleay said there was no real communication from the authorities so he and a group of tourists decided to set up patrols the night after the hurricane.
“There were several tourists including myself that volunteered to stay up through the night with what little we had to defend ourselves with,” he said.
“We didn’t have any significant encounters but we did make sure we were all going to be safe.”
The next day, the couple took back roads to the Dutch side where eventually they were transported from the island on a cargo plane.
On Tuesday, they were in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were waiting to take a flight home.
Their story is one of many of travelers in distress.
A Delaware couple who were vacationing at the same resort to celebrate their 50th anniversary described using gin and vodka to try and disinfect wounds of the injured.
A Scripps Ranch family is scheduled to return to California from Puerto Rico after surviving Irma on the British Virgin Islands.
Some resorts on the island have reported they will be closed indefinitely due to the damage.