When Hurricane Irma finally bore down on St. Martin, a tiny Caribbean island, Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz and his family thought they were ready. The Chabad emissaries have lived on the island for eight years, and have seen many storms. But the record-breaking 185 mile-per-hour winds drove them from their homes into the recently constructed Chabad center.
Chanowitz, his wife and their five children moved farther into the building as the storm worsened, finally entering the windowless room at the center: the mikveh, or ritual bath. Just as they got inside, the building’s door flew off.
“We have hurricane-proof doors and windows. It’s not like we weren’t prepared, but this was off the charts,” Chanowitz told Chabad.org. “The mikveh saved us.”
The storm reached the island at about 4 a.m. Wednesday. By 5 a.m., the plywood that Chanowitz had installed over the windows of his house and the Chabad center were flying off.
“Roofs are torn off. The interiors of people’s homes have been swept away. A friend of ours who lives in a very nice, very secure building down the street from the Chabad House, his whole house was blown out,” Chanowitz said. “He survived because he had a closet he could hide in.”
Chanowitz’s sister has set up a GoFundMe page to help get her brother and his family off the island.