ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — As Hurricane Maria hammered Dominica with 160 mph (260 kph) winds Monday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit hunkered down in his official residence and turned to social media to tell of the storm's fury, each post more dire than the previous.
Maria's "merciless" winds were turning sheet metal into deadly projectiles and "we dare not look out," Skerrit said on Facebook, praying for the tempest to end. "Rough! Rough! Rough!"
Less than 30 minutes later, he wrote that his roof had been torn off and the home was filling with water: "I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane."
"I have been rescued," he finally said late Monday, without giving details.
Skerrit's dramatic posts drew the attention of many in the outside world and at least momentarily shined a spotlight on the 45-year-old leader of this tiny Caribbean nation, as it was ravaged by the second cyclone to clobber the island in the last three years.
His messages were practically the only information the world had about Dominica's fate as the massive storm roared across a ruggedly beautiful landscape at the eastern edge of the Caribbean and cut off communications with the outside world.
"Initial reports are of widespread devastation," he wrote in a longer statement Tuesday morning after the posts about his roof and rescue.
Skerrit is no stranger to the medium. Even before the hurricane hit, his Facebook page frequently featured multiple new posts each day, sharing everything from photos of public works projects to Skerrit meeting with constituents, visiting dignitaries or a Jamaican reggae musician who uses the stage name "Sizzla."
As of Tuesday afternoon the page had attracted more than 35,000 "likes" and 38,000 followers — together nearly the equal of Dominica's entire population of around 74,000 — though it's not clear how many came as a result of Skerrit's newfound celebrity.
Born in 1972 in the village of Vieille Case on Dominica's north coast, Skerrit studied at the University of New Mexico before transferring and graduating from the University of Mississippi with degrees in psychology and English.
After returning to Dominica, he became a member of Parliament, a minister of Youth Affairs and Sports and a minister of education. He was sworn in as prime minister in 2004 after then-leader Pierre Charles died of an apparent heart attack. At just 31 he was the youngest prime minister since the country became independent of the United Kingdom in 1978.
Skerrit has won re-election multiple times since then, and today his close-cropped hair is thinning and receding at the front. Married with two children, according to his Facebook bio, he is a self-described liberal and Roman Catholic who peppers his public remarks with references to God, which is common across the Caribbean.
This isn't the first time Skerrit has become the public face of his country during disaster. In August 2015, Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island with floods and landslides that destroyed more than 370 homes and killed 30 people. The prime minister made frequent videos and posted them to social media to give updates and try to raise aid for his country.
"We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds," he wrote Tuesday.