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By Rick Sallinger

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The footage of category 5 Hurricane Irma is difficult to watch from so far away. The words on the TV screen CATASTROPHIC STORM only make it worse for Boulder native Nicole Chomyn, who lives and works in the Virgin Islands.

hurricane irma 11 Colorado Native Watches As Hurricane Slams Her Island Home

(credit: CBS)

“There is a large population of Coloradans down there, many of whom I know and love,” she told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.

She showed CBS4 the Facebook page used by people who live there. On St. Thomas, there were videos of cars and appliances tossed about like discarded toys.

hurricane irma 3 Colorado Native Watches As Hurricane Slams Her Island Home

Nicole Chomyn (credit: CBS)

Amazingly, cellphone service was still up as Chomyn put CBS4 on with her friend Sara Gunessa — at first on FaceTime, but a better connection was by phone. Gunessa said she was riding out the storm in a concrete house.

“From what we have been seeing, the roofs are coming off of some structures, trees are going down and everything is stripped down. It’s pretty insane,” she said.

hurricane irma 2 Colorado Native Watches As Hurricane Slams Her Island Home

(credit; CBS)

Asked if she was aware of destruction on the island, Gunessa replied: “There is already a great deal of damage. They have already told us we will be without power for up to six weeks … possibly more.”

Over on nearby St. John, the pictures Chomyn showed looked equally as bleak.

Chomyn is back in Colorado visiting, but is due to return to St. Thomas next month.

“I just hope my home, my work and my friends and my family are still there when I get back,” she said with tears forming in her eyes.

The plea fron Nicole and others who call these normally beautiful islands their home is: Don’t forget them; they will need help.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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