Like déjà vu, U.S. Virgin Island residents are scrambling to prepare for the dangerous Category 5 hurricane barreling toward them.
Maria could hit the Virgin Islands as early as Tuesday night – less than a month after Irma tore through the Caribbean. Four people died in USVI and countless others were left homeless and without basic necessities, especially on the island of St. John.
Despite the impending threat, many USVI residents are staying put to weather Maria – some because they couldn’t afford to evacuate, a few because they didn’t have the proper documentation to flee and others because of their desire to help neighbors.
Pat McCafferty, 25, has been working with the Red Cross and Longboard – the St. John restaurant where he's employed – to hand out 1,000 meals a day since Irma.
“I can’t abandon the operation we have down here,” McCafferty told Fox News, adding that some of the “stronger structures” that survived Irma with minimal damage might not hold up during Maria, creating an even greater need among residents.
“The community is very strong down here, and everyone is coming together,” he said. “People are giving free tarps and plywood for other people to protect what’s left of their homes.”
McCafferty, who postponed a vacation with his girlfriend to stay behind, praised Longboard’s owner, Clint Gaskins from Charleston, S.C., who flew to St. John ahead of Irma and went door-to-door to check on employees in the aftermath.
Brandi Hale told Fox News that her sister, Jill Hale, and brother-in-law, Jason Siska, also stayed in St. John to help.
Siska, a former “Survivor” contestant, works with the USVI fire department and has been taking 24-hour shifts while the department provides aid. Jill Hale is helping to rebuild a school.
“They are remaining not just to ‘tough it out,’ but because they feel useful and have responsibilities to uphold within the community,” Brandi Hale said.
Jill Tyler, co-owner of the Washington, D.C., restaurant Tail Up Goat, told Fox News that her parents are also staying. Her step-father, an electrician, plans to help restore power after Maria passes through.
Tyler, who grew up in USVI, said her restaurant is partnering with at least 24 others in the D.C.-area to raise money with cocktails. The restaurants will serve Caribbean-themed cocktails for at least four weeks, donating $1 per drink to organizations such as St. John Rescue and Love for Love City Foundation.
Despite it all, those still on the islands are survivors – and their dedication to the community is unwavering.
“What the hell else,” McCafferty said, “can Maria do” to Love City?