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Newmarket man catches flight just in time to escape Hurricane Maria

Union Leader Correspondent

September 20. 2017 7:08PM
Tom George, center, is glad to be back in Newmarket with his friends, John Kelly, left, and Charles Finnemore. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

NEWMARKET — Tom George feared he’d get trapped in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit Wednesday morning, but his flight back to Boston made it out just in time.

“It feels good to be home,” he said while relaxing at his buddy’s house in Newmarket Wednesday afternoon.

George, 25, arrived in Newmarket Tuesday night after abandoning his storm-damaged home in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and traveling back to New Hampshire via Puerto Rico.

George spent the last year and a half living on the island of St. John working in a restaurant, but after Irma devastated the region he said he realized he would have to return to his family home in Newmarket.

With so much of St. John and the other islands devastated, George and his girlfriend decided to leave most of their possessions behind and get out.

George said he plans to stay with family, build up his funds and possibly go back to school to learn a trade and one day return to St. John to help with the recovery effort that’s likely to last many years.

“There’s a big part of me that feels drawn to go back. It’s a pretty unique place that I really enjoyed being in. The community is strong and full of love,” he said.

George admitted he feels guilty leaving the victims of Irma behind, but he felt he had no choice and that it was better for him to be off the island and not using resources needed for others to survive. “At least I have a place to come back to,” he said.

But there were some tense moments getting home after he made his way to Puerto Rico to catch a flight out on Tuesday just as Maria was taking aim as a powerful Category 4 hurricane. George worried his flight would get cancelled.

While he got out, he said the flight was delayed because of Tropical Storm Jose, which continues to churn south of New England. At one point George was concerned that Jose would strike St. John after Irma, but the storm stayed away.

He’s now hoping Maria doesn’t follow him up the East Coast. “I’m a magnet at this point,” he said.

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