A before and after photo of the walkway leading away from the house Stephen Crepeau and his girlfriend stayed in during the storm in St. John island. The couple are now on their way back to US. SUBMITTED PHOTO/CourtesyOfStephenCreapeau

A before and after photo of the walkway leading away from the house Stephen Crepeau and his girlfriend stayed in during the storm in St. John island. The couple are now on their way back to US. SUBMITTED PHOTO/CourtesyOfStephenCreapeau

BIDDEFORD — Hurricane Irma has done its damage. The storm — which wreaked havoc across Florida and parts of the Caribbean — is now a tropical storm and is expected to fizzle out over the coming days.

Families in the Northeast have little to fear when it comes to hurricanes, as the result here is often nothing more than a flurry of thunderstorms. But the worry over relatives in those southern regions carries great weight, as was the case for Dennis and Linda Crepeau of Biddeford.

Their son, Stephen, 29, lives in St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, with his girlfriend Daryl, both of whom work in the restaurant industry as chefs. They have been living there for the past four years.

According to Crepeau, Stephen and Daryl were supposed to head home for a vacation as the busy season in St. John was ending. When the couple heard the storm was at category 3 strength they made an effort to evacuate via plane, but at that point all flights were booked. So they had no choice but to ride it out.

Irma struck the island on Wednesday, and Crepeau said he and his wife became progressively more worried as each hour passed without word from their son, until he received a call on Friday.

“I had just spoken with a woman from the Maine Emergency Management Agency, she was going to get me some information about how to get in touch with someone on the island,” Crepeau said. “So my phone went off and I reach in my pocket thinking it was her, but it was Steve, and I just thought ‘oh my God.’”

In a phone call on Tuesday, Stephen Crepeau said the house the couple rents is well inland and situated atop a mountain. He said it was a safe spot to ride out the storm.

“Being from Maine I have never dealt with hurricanes like that,” Crepeau said. “We did all we could to hunker down. We just rode out the storm in a storage room, and came upstairs when it was over to total destruction.”

The couple stayed in the storage room for about six hours. They were unable to witness what was happening during the storm other than a small opening in the room where he could see trees being thrashed around and blasted by winds.

“The house actually was okay, but the porch was all gone,” Crepeau said about the moment he walked outside after the storm. “There were no trees, some were standing but they were stripped. All the treetops were twisted off and gone. There was no green when you looked out.”

The couple is now in San Juan after taking a ferry, free of charge, with East Island Excursions.

Next, he said they are heading to Columbus, Ohio, before heading back to Biddeford to see his parents.

He added that he and Daryl will likely head back to St. John in October and then begin the long cleanup process.

“For right now we want to leave it to the essential personnel to get the infrastructure up and running again,” Crepeau said.

St. John remains in desperate need of relief, Crepeau said. Hurricane Irma was a category 5 storm when it swept through the Caribbean, and “the people still down there need all the help they can get.” 

Those looking to make donations to St. John can visit www.stjohnrescue.com/donate.

Staff Writer Ryder Schumacher can be reached at 282-1535, or via email at [email protected] 

 

 

 


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