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Sanibel couple survives cat. 5 Irma in St. Thomas

Posted at 11:05 PM, Sep 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-17 23:05:06-04

SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla.-- A Sanibel family is thankful to be back in their home after being stranded in Saint Thomas during and after Hurricane Irma.

David and Lynn Padgett shared video with 4 In Your Corner of Hurricane  Irma ripping through Saint Thomas as a Category 5 storm, Sunday. The family had been on the island for the last few weeks checking on their rental properties. "At the end of August, we said, it's a great time to go down there. Let's go for two or three weeks," said Dave.

At that time, they did not know Hurricane Irma was looming. After finding out how dangerous the disaster would be, they booked a flight back to Florida. However, the area airport closed the day before their flight, leaving them stranded on the island to ride out the storm in their seaside condo.

The Padgett's began preparing with canned food and water. They even made arrangements for the worst case scenario. "I started sending all the information to our grown children about our bank accounts and where all our assets were held," said Lynn. "I was that afraid. I taped them a message, and I told them that we loved them, but I wasn't sure we were going to make it through this."

The couple tells Fox 4 they were not receiving any outside information and had very little cell signal. Once the storm began to intensify, they hunkered down in their unit, not knowing what stage the storm was at. "Windows started to rattle and then our front door starts sounding like it was going to come off the hinges," said Dave. "I sat in front of the door just to keep it from blowing in. Lynn was behind me ringing towels to keep the water from coming in. Our poor little doggy was sitting on my lap just scared to death."

The Padgett's and their small Yorkie, Brody, endured sustained winds for 5 hours. They witnessed complete destruction once the storm was over. "We ran into a police officer who was cleaning debris," said Dave. "He said 'there are bodies everywhere.' He said the hospital is gone, the police station is gone."

They spent the next few days with about 60 others at resorts on the East end of the island, surviving with no electricity, running water, limited food and information. Friday, help finally arrived. 

A Norwegian Rescue Cruise ship, equipped for 2,000 people, took them back to Florida, where the Padgett's Sanibel home was miraculously in tact. Spared by Hurricane Irma. "To board the ship and be handed a sandwich, it was like I died and went to heaven," said Lynn. "It was God-sent. I could just not believe we got to pull into our driveway."