After days of waiting and wondering, a local woman said she finally heard from family feared missing after Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

“We just heard from them about 30 minutes before this interview,” Kasey Louis said, explaining there was no word from her sister since Tuesday.

As Hurricane Irma battered Florida, the damage done to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands came to light: shattered ports, debris and homes torn to pieces.

Louis lives in Lacey, but was born and raised in St. Thomas. She and her family endured Hurricane Hugo in 1989: “It was devastating: the rain, the winds. We were out of electricity for eight months. I remember my father carrying us on his back in the floodwaters.”

Most of her family lives in St. Croix, and she heard from them two days after Irma barreled through, but it took four days for her only sister, who lives on St. Thomas, to reach a phone.

“Just to hear her voice,” Louis sighed. “They couldn't get reception, so they had to climb over lamp poles and dangerous lines just to make sure that we heard.”

Louis spent the last few days and sleepless nights watching the news and combing social media, hoping to connect with someone in her sister’s neighborhood. A Facebook page called “What’s going on St. Thomas,” which began as a travel page featuring more than 50,000 members, now features people looking for loved ones, posts listing shelters and donation information, and live streams of local people trying to connect family members whose phone lines are out of service.

Now that her family is safe, Louis is making a call to action. As Irma hits Florida, she asks Americans to remember: “The U.S. Virgin Islands – they’re residents as well.”

Louis is working with Project We Care VI: Hurricane Irma Relief is asking for donations of hygiene products such as soap and toilet paper, baby products such as formula and diapers and food such as bottled water and canned goods. There are several drop off locations in the U.S. and St. Croix. For more information email