Stan Anderson and his wife moved to Santa Rosa Beach about 14 years ago and became part of the 30A life. He was a manager at the Hampton Inn and his wife worked at Silver Sands.

The Andersons lived here for about 9 1/2 years before tiring of the changes they were seeing and trying to keep up with the Joneses. So they followed a long-time dream they both had.

Four-and-a-half years ago the couple quit their jobs, sold most of their belongings and went almost empty-handed to the island of St. John to live, along with their 4-year-old daughter.

Growing up in the Midwest, Anderson was familiar with what tornado-force winds could do, but he had never experienced anything like Hurricane Irma.

"We knew it was headed in our direction and knew what it could do to our home, which had a wooden roof," he said.

The family took refuge at a resort on the island called Grand Bay.

Irma hit St. John around 7 a.m. last Wednesday, which was when they lost power. But the full effect of Irma's fury was not felt until 1 p.m.

"It was not like anything I have ever heard before," said Anderson. "The roar of the winds was unbelievable. The local fire captain told us he believes Irma had 195 mph sustained winds for 45 minutes while hitting us."

St. John is a U.S. territory that is nine miles long and three miles wide and has a population of 4,000. The only way in or out is by boat or ferry.

Irma destroyed 65 percent of the homes and many families are homeless, including the Andersons. It will take them eight to 10 months to rebuild.

There are currently 400 names on a list of people trying to get off the island, but Anderson was able to pay a private boat to take his family to San Juan. His wife and daughter will stay there for six months but he will return to St. John next week to his shipping job and help rebuild.

"Most women and children are off now, but food and water are running out and at present, there is no running water. It's becoming dire," he said.

However, the island has a friend in country singer Kenny Chesney, who owns a home there. Chesney has flown nurses in to help and has set up "Love City" and "St. John's Rescue" to collect charitable donations to help the residents.

Even with what he experienced with Irma, Anderson said he would never leave the island he has grown to love.

"St. John is our home. St. John is what 30A was 30 to 50 years ago where kids take school field trips to clean up the beach and go sailing. We'll be back and stronger. We just need help now," he said. "Give us a year and we will be back up and in business."