NewsRegion N Palm Beach CountyJupiter

Actions

Jupiter family shares story of harrowing escape from U.S. Virgin Islands

Posted at 4:42 PM, Sep 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-22 17:40:18-04

Islands in the Caribbean have taken a beating from back-to-back hurricanes.

A Jupiter family living in the U.S. Virgin Islands almost lost everything to Irma and barely escaped to Florida before Hurricane Maria hit this week.

“It felt like the great escape," joked Kim Hull.

The Hull family sat down with WPTV to share the story of their incredible 10-day journey to their family in Palm Beach County.

“We’ve been truly blessed," said Tom Hull.

It started with hurricane Irma, when Kim, Tom and their three young children were forced to abandon their home on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Everything was ripped to pieces there," said Kim. “Boats are piled up like toys. It’s going to take a while to clean up and rebuild."

To top it off, Kim is five months pregnant. With an emergency evacuation ordered for the islands, the family knew it was too dangerous for them to stay. 

“Hospitals were demolished in the storm," said Kim.

With Hurricane Maria on the way the family needed to get out. By a stroke of luck, connections at the hotel they sheltered at during Irma helped to put them in a taxi to the damaged airport in St. Thomas.

“It was a moment of just, action. To get in and head out of what had been our safe haven," said Kim.

The family was able to jump on the very last plane out of St. Thomas but the destination was nowhere near their family in Florida.

“We went from living in the most beautiful place in the world… to Detroit," said Kim. “With kids, it’s not really a luxury to not know where you’re going so we had prepared to go anywhere really.”

The family had to rent a car in Michigan and drive with all three kids across country.

“It was so far from where we wanted to go to Florida. So we just had to suck it up and take it in, that it was going to be another five days worth of traveling," said Kim. “It took four days of driving -- 12 hours consistently cross country -- with three kids!"

Now safe and sound in Jupiter, the Hulls have been overwhelmed with donations from their Jupiter community and family. More donations are welcome.

“We’ve been showered with blessings, as you can see with all the toys and stuff," said Tom.

Clothes, diapers and toys for the kids -- even a crib and other nursery items for the baby on the way.

The Hulls say it's a sign of thanks, considering everything they left behind on the island they may never go back to.

“It’s been heartwarming to see how the community has come together without having to say a word," said Kim. “Without such kind people in the community, we’d be on air mattresses right now."

Tom said he was able to find a job in the area so the family is hoping to find a permanent home in the area. The government is still shut down in the USVI so it will take some time for the Hulls to go back and collect what is left of their belongings.

Kim said they have applied for disaster assistance through FEMA but have yet to hear back on their claim. A GoFundMe account has been created for the family to help with with financial costs and other health insurance needs as they prepare for their newborn.