Iowan in path of Hurricane Maria returns home

Local News

PLEASANT HILL – A native Iowan who was in the path of Hurricane Maria is now safe at home.

Hurricane Maria has passed through Puerto Rico – and now the island is in the dark. Most of the island does not have power and Puerto Ricans are struggling just to get food and water. Puerto Rico is not the only island that was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

Local 5 spoke to a young woman who is a medical student on one of those islands, Dominica, which is just Southeast of Puerto Rico.

Janna Lovan just got back home to Iowa on Monday. And while she is now safe, her heart is still with those trapped in the ruins.

“I lived right next to the Caribbean Sea and the water was my backyard,” Janna said.

But now the island Janna called home for a year is in ruins – thanks to Hurricane Maria. Just days ago, the Iowa native was stuck in Dominica. She was in her last semester of medical school there at Ross University. Her apartment is now in shambles.

“There was no more roof on my apartment,” Janna said.

When the storm hit, Janna stayed in a concrete building with a friend from school. The destructive aftermath of the island afterward was shocking.

“I was in disbelief because Dominica is known as the nature island. There is green everywhere. All you see is trees and green and nature,” Janna said. “When we walked out, the first thing I saw was there were no trees in sight. All you see is naked branches.”

After a few more days of uncertainty, Janna was part of a massive evacuation effort to get students off the island. She spent more than eight hours in rough waters — a harrowing journey she will never forget.

“As soon as we got in the boat, we saw it was small, we knew it was going to be uncomfortable, but we were really fortunate to be the second group,” Janna said.

Janna is now staying at her parents’ house in Pleasant Hill, thankful to be back home. But what is really weighing on her mind is the safety of everyone back on the island.

“All I think about now is the locals, how they had nowhere to go, Dominica is their home, they have no more home, they have no more belongings,” Janna said.

Janna says just as Iowas stepped up during the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, she wants to see the same here following Maria’s devastation.

“We need to support Dominica,” Janna said. “We need to do as much as we can to help the people of Dominica to get them back on their feet.”

Janna says she and the other students at Ross University will not be able to return to Dominica at all. The school told her they will resume classes in two to three weeks somewhere else. And right now, there are still some students on the island.

The storm is heading toward the East Coast of the United States next.

If you want to help the survivors of Hurricane Maria, there are several aid organizations you can donate to. Here are just a few:

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