W MI church group stranded in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

Battle Creek family also weathering storm in Bahamas

Hurricane Matthew Haiti
Wind blows coconut trees during the passage of Hurricane Matthew in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A number of people from West Michigan found themselves in the path of Hurricane Matthew as it tore through Caribbean island nations and are now trying to get back home.

Todd Anderson, his wife and two kids from Battle Creek went to the Bahamas for a vacation, but that changed when the resort they were staying at was evacuated Wednesday. And in Haiti, a West Michigan church group was left stranded after riding out the storm in a boarded-up schoolhouse.

“Not too bad out right now, just windy,” Anderson can be heard in a video of trees blowing in the wind during the relative calm before the storm.

“They come in in bands. It seems like about every hour, we’ll get one. And even as I look out the window now I can see a dark sky coming towards us again,” he added in an interview via Facebook chat just minutes before the family took shelter before hurricane-force winds hit the Bahamas.

“Knowing that the winds will be over 140 miles an hour, it’s something that I’ve never experienced before and nor has my family. We’re just used to the small storms in Battle Creek, which can be kind of big, but nothing like this,” Anderson said.

The Anderson family got a letter from their hotel — the Harborside Resort at Atlantis — on Tuesday detailing shelter and evacuation plan for guests. Crews lined sandbags along the hotel doors, preparing for flooding.

As the Andersons braced for what was to come in the Bahamas, a group of seven from Cascade Christian Church had already rode out the storm in Haiti.

Here in West Michigan, Cascade Christian Pastor Jill Forton said the group survived the storm sheltered with locals in a schoolhouse on the small Haitian island of Île-à-Vache.

Forton said a small souvenir boat from a previous trip to Haiti, previously a reminder of good work, had come to serve as a reminder to pray for the group’s safety.

“We had no idea we’d be praying for them like we’ve been praying for them,” she said.

The church was able to make contact with the group Wednesday morning. All of them are well, but there is a food shortage in the wake of the hurricane. The group’s boat to get back to the main island and a main bridge to the Haitian capital of Porte-au-Prince were damaged and the condition of the airport was unclear.

“This will be I’m sure a challenge, but also they’re going to come back with stories they’ll be telling the rest of their lives,” Forton said.

24 Hour News 8 made contact with the Andersons Wednesday night. They said they are safe.

Both the Anderson family and the church group hope to fly home Saturday — though Forton thought that was highly unlikely for her group.

**Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the island Île-à-Vache. It has been corrected.