Rochester Native Survived Direct Hit By Hurricane Irma (VIDEO & PHOTO GALLERY)
Rochester native and former KROC announcer John Westgard was among those who experienced the ferocity of a category 5 hurricane firsthand when Irma slammed into the Virgin Islands last month.
John paid a visit to his old workplace last week and got back behind the microphone to share some stories about riding out the storm and describe the devastation caused by wind gusts topping 180 miles per hour on the island of St. John. Westgard, who with his wife Paige, now owns and operates a small hotel on the edge of the jungle in Costa Rica. Before making the move to Central America, John lived in St. John for several years and returned to the small island just days before the storm hit to assist his professional photographer and friend Steve Simonsen with some upcoming photo shoots.
The videos featured in this post are from his appearance on KROC-AM's Rochester Today Show with James Rabe and Andy Brownell and have John describing his friend Steve's ordeal when his home was destroyed by the hurricane while he was inside it and the next couple hours he spent outside before finally reaching shelter. Westgard also describes his experiences inside a villa with thick concrete walls as the eye of the storm passed by just several miles away.
John remained on St. John for a few days after the hurricane, helping with the clean-up as the resilient citizens of the island began the process of rebuilding. During his interview, Westgard recounted the elation he and others felt when they witnessed the arrival of U.S. Navy ships and the helicopter flights delivering desperately needed supplies. He also urged everyone to donate to the disaster relief efforts and provided a list of groups focused on the recovery efforts in the Virgin Islands.