Family in Winnipeg watches as Hurricane Maria leaves devastation in Dominica

As Hurricane Maria tore through Dominica causing extensive damage to the Caribbean island nation, John and Mabel Celaire watched the storm's progress on a television in their son’s home in Winnipeg.

John and Mabel Celaire spend half the year in Winnipeg, the other half on the island nation

John and Mabel Celaire spend half the year in Dominica, where John was born. In Winnipeg, they watched the news as Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean. (CBC)

As Hurricane Maria tore through Dominica Monday night, causing extensive damage to the Caribbean island nation, John and Mabel Celaire watched the storm's progress on a television in their son's home in Winnipeg.

"You don't know what's going to happen," John said on Tuesday morning, holding his hand to his face.

The Category 5 hurricane roared through the Caribbean overnight, bringing 260 km/h winds to Dominica and "mind-boggling" devastation, according the nation's prime minister.

Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on his Facebook page that "initial reports are of widespread devastation" and he feared there would be deaths due to rain-fed landslides.

John Celaire was born in Dominica and when he and Mabel retired, they decided to spend half the year on the island and the other half with their son, Chad Celaire, and his wife in Winnipeg. 

The couple were set to go back to their home in Dominica at the beginning of November but now they don't know what they will be returning to.

The roof of the prime minister's home was torn off and he needed to be rescued, and there are reports of staggering damage across the island. 

John Celaire said he felt lucky to be safe in Manitoba but "for those that are left behind, it's not good."

Hurricane Maria slams into Leeward Islands

5 years ago
Duration 1:34
Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica all severely hit by storm

Chad Celaire said his parents have been very worried as they watch the storm system track through Dominica. They've called and texted friends, but haven't had a response since late Monday night.

"They have a bond with their friends that is really unique, so it's tough to see them just be filled with so much anxiety. It's difficult but it's understandable," Chad said.

He said he was texting with a friend in Dominica, who is supposed to be immigrating to Saskatchewan, on Monday night.

"His last words to me were, 'We are getting hit very hard here, just be praying for us,'" he said.

Chad Celaire says he is worried for Dominica because the country's economy relies on agriculture and tourism. (CBC)

The island nation builds most of its structures and homes to withstand storms, Chad Celaire added, but there are some people who live in "metal scaffolding-type homes — like tin cans."

He said he is also worried about how this season's hurricanes will affect Dominica's economy, which relies on tourism and agriculture.

"The Dominica people are resilient people and they always smile. They've been hit a lot of times by hurricanes, and whenever we go through there they are really positive," he said.

It's been a stressful hurricane season for the family, with Maria and Irma bringing damage to the Caribbean, while the Celaires' other son was in Houston and needed to be rescued from Hurricane Harvey.

They said they've been inspired by the resiliency shown in the wake of the other storms and the family is optimistic Dominica will survive Hurricane Maria.

"When there is a will, there is a way," John Celaire said. "We are going to rebuild stronger and stronger."

With files from Karen Pauls, The Canadian Press and Reuters