Metro Detroit Med-Student Survives Hurricane Irma: ‘We Did Not Expect Anything Like This’

LIVONIA (WWJ) – The wrath of Hurricane Irma is being felt by a local med-student who is currently studying on Saba Island in the Caribbean.

Joanna Kandalaft, an Oakland University graduate from Livonia, said the ocean looked choppy before she went to bed Tuesday night, but she had no idea what she was waking up to the following morning.

“Around 5 a.m. I got woken up by the storm. It just felt like somebody was standing out there banging on the metal shutters with a big branch or something,” Kandalaft told WWJ’s Jason Scott. “So me and my roommates just went out and we sat in the living room trying to wonder what to do. … We actually found out later that Irma was circulating around us.”

The storm went on for about three hours.

“We did not expect anything like this. Nobody could go back to sleep,” said Kandalaft. “It was like someone was there, just hitting your window.”

Kandalaft, who has only been on the island for two weeks, called herself fortunate saying the dorms where she’s staying, though elevated, are some of the safest structures on the island. But she’s still nervous about what’s to come.

“We didn’t get hit as bad a St. Martin but now everybody is a little bit worried about getting food and products to the island. Our airport is cleared off but St. Martin is the closest island and we can’t get in contact or anywhere near them, that’s the scariest part right now,” she said. “And especially with Jose coming, it’s going to be even worse.”

Irma weakened from a Category 5 storm to Category 4 on Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph, but it remained a powerful hurricane. Florida is prepared for Irma’s wrath, with forecasters warning the storm could slam headlong into the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, punish the entire length of the state’s Atlantic coast and move into Georgia and South Carolina.

More than a half-million people in Miami-Dade County were ordered to leave as Irma closed in.

Farther out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose, a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, posed a potential threat for Saturday to some of the same islands ravaged by Irma.

Irma, the most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded, appeared increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida on Sunday afternoon after sweeping along Cuba’s northern coast on Saturday.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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