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Former Cedarburg native survives double dose of hurricanes in St. Croix

Posted at 10:19 PM, Sep 22, 2017

In the days leading up to landfall of the powerful cyclone named Maria, countless network news crews were dispatched to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. 

At the height of the storm, network reporters provided live coverage of the winds, rain and storm surge overtaking the island. When the storm had passed, those same crews continued to provide coverage of the initial recovery efforts.

The island of St. Croix has a population of just over 50,000 residents compared to the millions who call Puerto Rico home, so it wasn’t the focus of network news crews and newspaper wire services. Still, Christiansted on St. Croix was every bit as hard hit as San Juan on Puerto Rico.

“St. Croix is totally devastated,” Cedarburg-raised mechanic Stephen Froehlich told TODAY’S TMJ4 Friday. “Every tree has either been stripped or has fallen over. Every power line is either all the way laid down or at a pretty sharp angle, about to fall down.”

Froehlich rode out both Maria and Irma in an island bunker. When he emerged from that bunker following Irma, he was heartened by what he saw. The island paradise was largely spared the ravages of the earlier hurricane. After Maria, though, he emerged from his bunker and saw only destruction.

Every bit as concerning as the destruction is the crime.

“The looting is unbelievable,” he said. “Nobody even had a chance. It was looted in the first 48 hours.”

Froehlich said by the time the National Guard was on scene, the damage was already done. Roads are slowly reopening, but that has improved the ability of desperados to get around on the island.

“So at night it can be kind of stressful,” Froehlich said. “Trying to maintain a perimeter and keeping the property safe.”

He says the immediate needs are numerous. He and his fellow islanders need water, batteries, fuel, generators and help rebuilding their infrastructure. The airport remains closed although the runway survived. What’s more, islanders feel isolated and somewhat forgotten.

“Just don’t forget us,” Froehlich said. “St. Croix, the Virgin Islands are an incredible place and there’s a lot of great, really hard-working people here!”