Hurricane Irma moves across the Atlantic Ocean
Hurricane Irma moves across the Atlantic OceanReuters

Chabad of St. Martin emissaries Rabbi Moishe and Sara Chanowitz said told of the miraculous way they were saved from Hurricane Irma.

According to Moishe, the couple and their five children decided to remain in their partially-built Chabad center, on the Dutch side of the bi-national island.

"I got some advice from locals who were here during the hurricane of ’95, and they said this was worse. They told me my house would be completely blown out, and we should go to the Chabad House," Moishe said.

Since the center is made of concrete and built into the side of a mountain, the main worry was water, not wind. To prepare, the couple boarded up the center's door and windows, and placed mattresses on the floor.

When the wind took the door off the Chabad House, the Chanowitzes decided to move their family down to the new mikvah area, where there were no windows. Though the mikvah is still not finished, the shell was there, strong enough to withstand the storm.

“The winds were absolutely terrifying,” Chanowitz told “You could hear it; you could feel the pressure in your ears. I thought the windows would explode at any moment. The moment we got our last child into the mikvah area, the front door of the Chabad House flew clean off. It was terrifying.”

“We have hurricane-proof doors and windows; it’s not like we weren’t prepared. But this was off the charts. The mikvah saved us.”

Hurricane Irma is currently a Category 5 hurricane, but is expected to weaken to a Category 4 as it hits Florida. The death toll currently stands at eight, but authorities expect the number to rise as cleanup progresses.

Chabad emissaries are usually reluctant to leave their posts, even under threat of a hurricane. Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli ZAKA rescue organization published a list of guidelines for community leaders planning to remain in Irma's path.

Closely following on Irma's heels are Hurricanes Jose and Katia. While Katia is expected to remain in the Gulf of Mexico, it is not yet clear what Jose's path will be.