Virginia man fears for friends living on St. Thomas, St. Martin as Hurrican Irma strikes

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(WDBJ7) As Hurricane Irma begins to rip through islands in the Caribbean area, people are growing concerned for the safety of those they know.

That includes one Virginia man who used to live in the islands.

John Jureidini lived in St. Thomas, St. Martin, and Puerto Rico from 2003 to 2014. During that time, he made friends with many others with ties to Virginia, including Virginia Tech alumni he met on football Saturdays.

He recalled, "They tailgate outside, and there'd be like 20 of us, and then we'd all go inside and watch the game. So there's a good core group of Hokies down there and they're some of my best friends and they're the ones I'm really concerned about."

Now Jureidini is trying phone calls, texts, social media, anything to track them, and other friends, down.

"The real disconcerting part is that we're not going to know until tomorrow," he said Wednesday night. "Nighttime has happened and you're not going to know the extent of the damage until the morning, I don't know if someone's injured or how people are going to get to them."

He said he even spoke to many of them from his home in Mechanicsville before-hand, trying to help in advance of the Category 5 hurricane.

"I was literally begging to evacuate, we have plenty of room here and, you know, [I was saying] 'Get on a plane, get anywhere close to Richmond, I'll come up and get you. It's been nerve wracking, we've been very anxious, it was tough to sleep last night."

Now, all he can do is keep checking and watching videos that his friends post online, scenes unlike anything he's ever experienced.

"I went through Omar without my wife and then went through Early off St. Martin with her and, you know, they were pretty strong, pretty scary, but nothing like what I saw in those videos. These videos are just terrifying," he said.

Jureidini said he and his wife were reaching out to friends every hour until they heard from everyone.

Even his boss is currently in Saint Thomas at a resort he owns.

He's also using a service called Firechat that allows people to make calls or reach out if phone lines are down or power is out.

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