Scripps Ranch Family Survives Hurricane Irma

What to Know

  • Hurricane Irma is moving through the Caribbean on its way to a possible devastating hit on Florida.
  • President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
  • National Hurricane Center said Irma's winds may fluctuate, but the storm would likely remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two

9/7/17 UPDATE: According to a family friend, the Madsen family is still stranded in the British Virgin Islands.

They are trying to get to St. Thomas so that they can take a flight to Charlotte to stay with family members Monday, and hopefully get back to Scripps Ranch by Tuesday. 

However, they said the airport on the island of Tortola where they are has been destroyed in Hurricane Irma. They are not sure if their flight will be canceled. 

The family only has access to text messages and are helping local homeless by giving them shelter in their hotel room. 


A San Diego-area family survived an “extremely crazy” night as Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds battered the Caribbean.

Jennifer Engels Madsen, her husband John Madsen and her sons Andy Madsen, a Cal Poly student and Ryan Madsen, a UC Davis student are vacationing in the British Virgin Islands.

The Scripps Ranch family rented a boat to hop from tiny island to tiny island on what should have been a dream vacation. However, they spent the last 24 hours seeking refuge on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.

Ryan Madsen reached out to NBC 7 on Tuesday, to let us know he and his family were preparing for the approaching hurricane and its Category 5 winds.

The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured has been described as a monster by some experts.

Hours after the storm passed the British Virgin Islands, churchgoers learned the family had survived the night.

“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.”

Members of Canyon Springs Church spent the day Wednesday sharing news about and praying for the Madsen family.

Because of the damage, the family has been able to make only a limited number of phone calls so they are communicating through their church to spread the word to friends and family that they have survived the hurricane.

Pastor Jack Hawkins said because they had planned on spending the vacation on boats, the family didn’t have a place to stay. So 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.

“We've just been gathering everyone we can and praying for them and hoping,” Hawkins said.

Associate Pastor Paul Murray said the church will be posting updates on its Facebook page.

“If we hear anything we're just adding it to our Facebook account so people can know what to be praying for, not just be praying for them but for other people in the same situation," Murray said.

With damage throughout the island, the family is unsure when they will be able to return to California. 

The U.S. National Weather Service said Puerto Rico had not seen a hurricane of Irma's magnitude since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, which killed a total of 2,748 people in Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Florida.

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