Hurricane Irma's impact felt in the Ozarks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Hurricane Irma has left a path of destruction in its wake.

The impact is being felt right here in the Ozarks.

A few Missouri State University students and locals who moved here from the British Virgin Islands are dealing with the devastation the hurricane left behind.

They say they are used to hurricanes hitting the region but nothing prepared them or their loved ones for something like this.

"It looks like a war zone. It looks like a bomb has been dropped. The closest thing I can compare it to is the tornado, the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin in 2011," says Randy Georges.

He lives in Springfield now but grew up in Tortola, a town in the British Virgin Islands. He was one of the first students to attend MSU from the islands. Georges is in close contact with others from his native country who chose to go to college in the Ozarks.

Georges explains that he was raised to prepare for hurricanes, much like people here are raised to prepare for tornados.

"The islands are very used to hurricanes. We grew up prepping for hurricanes. All the buildings are built, concrete structures, we have special hurricane shutter windows. Everybody has an action plan. We're used to it. I've lived through hurricane Hugo, hurricane Luis, hurricane Marilyn, all the 90s. My parents who are still there have been through more hurricanes than I can count," he says.

He says when meteorologists gave warning of hurricane Irma everyone thought they were ready to deal with it.

"We've been through this before. We're used to it. We can handle it. We might have some damage. We're going to rebuild, that's what we always do. I wasn't too worried. I think that was the mentality of most everyone there," he explains.

Georges says no one could have prepared for the hurricane's destruction.

"Entire buildings and structures. Beach front restaurants and marinas, yacht harbors are just completely gone. My parents’ home is gone. Their business is gone. They're in their 70s and homeless. They're just trying to figure out what their next move is," he says.

Kiaun Baptiste is in his senior year at MSU. He was planning to go back to the islands for Christmas vacation. Now, he says, he's not sure if there will be anything to go back to.

"When it happened I really didn't even sleep. When I woke up and I checked the group chat to see the amount of pictures people sent. It really was heartbreaking. We didn't expect it to be as bad as it actually was," he says.

Baptiste says he is still trying to cope with the devastation.

"It was very emotional because you know all the way out here your heart is still back home, not being able to communicate with your family. You're hearing about people dying and you see pictures of how bad the island was devastated it was really tough. It still is because your whole life has been changed in a matter of a couple of hours," he explains.

Baptiste uses social media to keep up with what's going on back in his homeland.

He shares the pictures and videos his friends and family sends him with me. His voice shakes with emotion as he describes some of the images.

"It's a sad feeling you know. This is the high school I graduated from," he says, swiping through pictures on his smartphone.

Baptiste sits quietly for a moment before he continues.

"It's one thing to know that a country has got devastated but then to know that it actually happened to you, it's a whole different feeling you know," he explains.

He continues to show me pictures of where he used to live.

"Here this is like my neighborhood where I live at. It's really bad," he says.

Baptiste says it took a few days to hear from his loved ones.

"It is one thing to hear that your friends are okay but when you can actually hear the voice it's a sigh of relief, you know," he says.

Georges is anxious to get back to the islands.

"I just want to be there as soon as possible, just to be there, just to lend a helping hand to whoever needs it," he says.

Georges and Baptiste won't be able to make it back to the British Virgin Islands right away. In the meantime, they are working with the community, including students at the MSU campus in Joplin to help those in need.

"They're setting up relief action plans over there at their campus. We have an action plan for relief here at Missouri State," explains Georges.

They are working on a few fundraisers. That will take some time to plan. For now, they are collecting supplies to send to the region.

Both Georges and Baptiste say that they are hopeful the region will recover.

"With the right mentality and positive attitude I think things could get better," says Georges.

Baptiste says, "It's going to be some tough times ahead. Tough times don't last. Tough people do. I really think we will be okay, hopefully. Once we get help."

If you’d like to help you may take supplies to the MSU campus until Friday.

Additional resources and information on how you can help can be found by clicking on the link included on this page.