Sunday, July 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Relatives await word from Tampa mother, daughter stuck in Puerto Rico before Irma

TAMPA — Rosita Chisem hasn't heard from her aunt, Pauline Jackson, or cousin, Samantha Jackson, since Hurricane Irma brushed past the northern coast of Puerto Rico.

The mother and daughter from Tampa had just returned to the island after spending seven days on a Caribbean cruise. With all departing flights canceled ahead of the storm, they had no way to get home.

Chisem, who lives in St. Petersburg, said she last spoke with her aunt Wednesday night. She was told they were staying in a hotel, which had been boarded up, and that they were going to ride out the storm.

"I've been calling every hour on the hour since 3 a.m. this morning," Chisem said. "All I get is voicemail."

Pauline Jackson, a registered nurse, spoke with an Associated Press reporter at a hotel in San Juan shortly before the storm hit.

"I'm in a hurricane here, and when I get home, I'll be in the same hurricane. It's crazy," she said. She said she was scheduled to fly out of the island Friday.

"When you're from Florida, you understand a Category 5 storm," Jackson said.

Since then, Irma, a Category 5 storm, lashed the island with heavy rain and winds up to 185 mph.

Family members are anxious for any word from the pair.

"She felt they were going to be safe," Chisem said of her last conversation with her aunt. She said she was trusting God was going to get her through it. I said 'OK, auntie.' She told me she loved me. And I said I loved her."

In the days before the storm, Samantha Jackson posted numerous photos and videos of their trip. The posts show the pair traveled aboard the MS Adventure of the Seas, visiting St. Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda.

"I just want my auntie and my cousin to come back," Chisem said. "Then we'll take time and deal with whatever comes next."

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