President Trump Can't Remember a Category 5 Hurricane. I Nearly Died in One | Opinion

Two years ago, my husband and I found ourselves tied to our mattress, cowering in terror on our shower floor, as 178 mph winds tore apart our hurricane-proof home for eight hours.

Hurricane Irma, having escalated from a Category 2 to a Category 5 overnight, effortlessly leveled our beautiful town of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, launching 62-foot, 33-ton catamarans and syphoning trees straight up into the atmosphere. Her cry was like a symphony of subway trains in our skulls, and her record-breaking low pressure triggered oxygen-starved hypoxia.

Irma broke several records, becoming the world's longest-lasting Category 5 hurricane, the strongest open-Atlantic hurricane and the strongest hurricane ever to strike land in the Caribbean. She was in a class of her own—or so we thought at the time.

As if the psychological torture of fearing for our lives for hours on end were not enough, after the storm, we were in a state of total desperation, with outside communication severed, food and water scarce and all signs of civilization sundered, including the homes, government buildings, once-lush vegetation and spirits of our small, close-knit island community.

After a week of subsisting on dwindling supplies in a post-apocalyptic setting, my husband and I joined the first wave of U.S. evacuees to Puerto Rico, which welcomed with open arms thousands of Irma refugees daily, before meeting its own devastation weeks later at the hands of Maria.

Although grateful for refuge, we felt guilty for leaving our ravaged island behind and suppressed symptoms of post-traumatic stress after being ripped from our friends, our way of life, our daily routines, our world.

As painful as it was to reopen fresh wounds, I wrote Irma Was Here, compelled by a need to warn others, protect them from similar calamity caused by climate change and share what I hoped would be a rare story of surviving an unparalleled superstorm. I took comfort when Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, described Irma as a "hurricane of the future." I hoped that even our children would not have to witness such a monstrosity in their lifetime.

And then, from the abnormally warm Atlantic waters, festered Dorian—another stealthy mutant, morphing at the last minute to wreak catastrophic destruction on the Bahamas days ago. To our horror, Dorian's ferocity surpassed Irma's, tying with the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 as the strongest Atlantic hurricane at landfall, crawling at 1 mph over the northern Bahamas, drowning entire islands, and pummeling, shredding and smashing their hurricane-proof infrastructure for more than 40 hours.

More than 40 hours.

British Virgin Islands Hurricane Irma
The wreckage of a plane is left lying on the roof of a destroyed building in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, on November 18, 2017, months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the region. Chris Jackson/Getty

Two years after Irma, the memory can still rattle me to tears. But I can only imagine the horror people in the Bahamas just endured. What I can confirm is that it was sheer psychological trauma—the kind of which we are only beginning to understand, because we are only now seeing natural disasters of this ferocity occur with such regularity.

Although our president said this week, "I'm not sure that I've ever even heard of a Category 5" hurricane, four have threatened the U.S. during his presidency: Irma, Maria, Michael and now Dorian.

If these disasters mercifully do not devastate the U.S. mainland, too often we quickly move on with our lives and conclude that reports leading up to the storms were sensationalized. But tell that to the people of the Bahamas. Tell that to me.

I have seen with my own eyes and felt in my bones the power of a Category 5 hurricane, and I can tell you that I would never wish it on another living being. They are a threat to our most primal human need for security and safety, to our belief that even when our houses are blown away, there's still a planet that is our home. But when Earth itself is under threat, and Mother Nature rears her angry, vengeful fist toward your face, that is when a new category of terror takes hold, a terror that perhaps only those who have survived catastrophic natural disaster can ever fully understand.

Diandra Jones is the author of Irma Was Here: Surviving the Eye of History's Strongest Atlantic Hurricane.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

President Trump Can't Remember a Category 5 Hurricane. I Nearly Died in One | Opinion | Opinion