GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A West Michigan native will soon be boarding a plane back home after surviving Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica.
Andrew Droste is a first year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine. He tells his family he saw leaves ripped off trees and roofs taken off buildings when Maria made landfall.
"He said it looked like an apocalypse," Andrew's mother Deb Droste said. "He said he could hear the galvanized roofs being ripped off, the sound of nails ripping apart. He said those were sounds he would never forget."
After the category 5 storm hit the island, Deb says her family lost contact with her son.
"I hadn't eaten, I hadn't slept," Deb says. "Your mind takes you in places you don't even want to go. My children would say don't think that way - think positive - so you do, you rely on your family."
When she finally heard his voice a few days later it was a huge sense of relief.
"You try to be strong for yourself and your family primarily, and at some point its gonna give, the dam's gonna break."
The stories Andrew told his family when they established a line of communication are harrowing. His apartment was destroyed by the strong winds and water, and each apartment he and a group of students went to were deemed too unsafe to stay.
Andrew was able to get off the island in a boat his sister described as a "pirate ship" to St. Lucia. He was taken to Miami, where he'll be departing for Grand Rapids early Thursday morning. He's scheduled to land at Gerald R Ford International Airport before noon.