By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesotan is stuck in the path of the strongest storm recorded in the Atlantic Ocean in more than a decade. Hurricane Irma is a powerful category 5 storm that is expected to pass just north of the island of St. Thomas Wednesday.

By the time Samantha Kaffenbarger tried to book a flight out, they were gone.

“Everything’s got hurricane shutters on them so they’ve been putting them up all day. We’ve got food, water, for at least a week here,” Kaffenbarger said.

The 27-year-old moved to St. Thomas after grad school. She decided to make the tourist driven island home after spending time nanning during her aunt’s anniversary trip. But she never imagined having to worry Irma could damage the place she considers paradise.

samantha kaffenbarger st thomas hurricane Minnesota Woman Trapped In Carribbean In Hurricane Irmas Path

Samantha Kaffenbarger (credit: CBS)

“It’s upgraded in the last couple of days and that’s made us a little more unsecure about what’s going to happen here,” Kaffenbarger said.

Here in Minnesota, her aunt Melissa Laughlin tried to do everything she could to get her niece home.

“We tried to fly her out. Within a couple of days of the storm there was not a single flight left leaving the island. You couldn’t charter a private jet. We even talked about a boat today,” Laughlin said.

She saw the devastation category 4 hurricane Harvey unleashed on Texas. The National Hurricane Center called Irma a “potentially catastrophic” storm.

“It makes me feel frightened for my niece’s well-being and for everybody else there that doesn’t have a quick life line,” Laughlin said.

Samantha said a curfew went into effect on St. Thomas Tuesday evening. She’ll hunker down and wait out the storm

“We can’t drive off and get somewhere else. We are stuck here unfortunately so we just kind of have to wait it out,” Kaffenbarger said.

The Governor of Florida declared a state of emergency. There is a mandatory evacuation for tourists in the Keys beginning Wednesday.


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