CT native evacuates St. John, comes back to U.S. mainland

Milford native Jenn Manes lives on  the island of St. John, running a tourism blog, but was forced to evacuate last Tuesday after Hurricane Irma wiped out all infrastructure.

"Our life that we knew was destroyed in five hours in a storm," said Manes.

The island of 4,500 residents is now bracing for a second hit from Hurricane Maria later tonight.

"We feel like we're dreaming," said Manes. "It's hard to watch it happen again."

Manes made it back to Connecticut on Friday. She, her boyfriend and their three rescue dogs are now staying with her parents in Madison.

"My boyfriend came home and said we have 30 minutes to go," explained Manes. She said she grabbed whatever she could -- clothes, documents, dog supplies -- and packed it into two carry-on suitcases and a backpack.

"We were put on a little inflatable boat, brought to a Coast Guard cutter, which brought us to St. Thomas and from St. Thomas, we were put on a Norwegian cruise ship. Four days later, landed in Miami."

Manes went viral on Facebook post-Irma, posting for "The News of St. John." She urged the mainstream media to cover the island's destruction. Her post was shared more than 23,000 times.
"Just don't forget about us," said Manes. "And keep sending the help."

Manes said she is keeping in touch with those who remain on the island.

"They said the sense of community is absolutely overwhelming and that everybody's helping each other." She said those staying behind have prepared for Maria as much as possible. "They buttoned up the buildings as best they can, and they just have to wait and see."

Manes is hoping to go back to St. John in about three weeks, eager to rebuild. "In the long run, I think we're going to make it a better place."