Wrightsville Beach native took shelter from Irma in Kenny Chesney's St. John home

Wrightsville Beach native took shelter from Irma in Kenny Chesney's St. John home
Updated: Sep. 13, 2017 at 4:09 PM EDT
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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - Hurricane Irma destroyed country music star Kenny Chesney's St. John home, and Wrightsville Beach native Kate Hanna was inside the residence while it happened.

Hanna grew up in Wrightsville Beach but has lived in St. John for the past 11 years working on a boat.

Her friendship with Chesney goes back years. They met on the island when Hanna was working at a bar.

She had planned to ride out the storm with a group of girlfriends at one of their houses.

"I'm really glad we didn't," she said, "because it wouldn't have been a good outcome."

The house they had planned to stay in was completely destroyed.

"I am very fortunate to be friends with Kenny Chesney, the country music star," Hanna said. "I've known him for years. The island is his home. He sent a group of us who are good friends with him a message and said, 'Go up to my house.' This house is specifically built to withstand hurricanes and storms. He thought that would be the safest place for all of us to be."

Chesney's house was also destroyed.

A group of 17 people rode out the storm in Chesney's home, including four children. Five dogs were also with them.

The group brought food, water, and supplies into the safe room in Chesney's house. At some point during the storm, a window blew out in that room.

The group then made their way to a laundry room where they had to bar the door to keep it from blowing in.

"The boys had to grab about three mattresses," Hanna said. "The washer and dryer were there so we had to put all those up against the door to keep it from blowing in. Five guys had to take turns holding it."

The storm forced them into that room for about five hours with no way of communicating with the outside world.

When they were able to leave, they found the island in total destruction.

"One of the worst parts was the next day," Hanna said. "A group of us went into town not knowing what to expect and that was the hardest thing. Houses just destroyed, completely gone."

Anderson Cooper interviewed Chesney and Hanna on CNN Tuesday after Hanna and other members of their group were finally able to get off the island.

Chesney, who had been sending supplies to St. John using his private planes, was able to arrange for his friends to travel on one of their return trips.

He has also started the Love for Love City Foundation to raise money for recovery efforts in St. John.

"They need so much help. They need water. They have no power. They might not get power back until January," Hanna said. "So trying to rebuild that island is going to take a lot of work. It's going to take a lot of money, and a lot of hope."

Growing up on the coast, Hanna was no stranger to hurricanes but said nothing compared to Irma.

"I've been through hurricanes in Wrightsville Beach growing up, Bertha and Fran and everything, but you know, it was just scary," she said.

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