By Ralph Iannotti

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GREENSBURG (KDKA) — A Westmoreland County couple who was vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands has returned home with a first-hand account of the devastation from Hurricane Irma.

Jessica and John Poole are back home in Greensburg after what they hoped would have been a relaxing vacation in their favorite spot — the island of St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But their vacation was anything but relaxing. Hurricane Irma had other ideas. The couple was stranded on a small island pounded by Irma last week.

“It was the most helpless feeling that we ever experienced,” John Poole said. “And I guess in a roundabout way, we kind of said what we needed to say to each other because we really didn’t expect to make it. I think we really weren’t sure.”

Jessica Poole chimed in, saying, “From what we saw on the news before we lost all power, I think the storm was expected to be devastating.”

While ferocious winds swept over the island, several hundred others — mostly tourists, including the Pooles, along with hotel workers — stayed put in the hotel. As the couple huddled in a third-floor bathroom, they said the sound of the wind was deafening, and the building vibration was “unreal.”

They said local officials told the anxious gathering that the situation was going from bad to worse. They were running low on food and water.

There were even reports of looting on the tiny island in the storm’s wake because of so much destruction.


A woman named Jenn who lives on the Caribbean island and puts out newsletters sent one to the Pooles after the couple managed to get off the island by ferry late Friday.

The letter has an ominous tone. It said, in part, “We need the U.S. government to step up. We need military, and we need security. We all survived this monster storm, but how will we survive the aftermath? No one knows.”

“I think the word is starting to get out, but we really need it to get out,” John said, “because these people [on the island] are essentially stranded with no help.”

The Pooles want to return to St. John Island someday, but they believe the road to recovery will be a long one.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help St. John residents recover:

Country singer Kenny Chesney, whose home on the island was destroyed, also set up a foundation to provide disaster relief for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

Information on Chesney’s Love For Love City Foundation can be found on his website: