Hurricanes 1-2-3.

Wednesday September 6th, 2017 - Hurricane Irma, a cat-5 hurricane - winds over 220mph passed directly over the BVI.

September 9th - Hurricane Jose, a cat-4 with sustained winds are near 150 mph, and higher gusts skirted us, cruelly dumping inches of water of homes without roofs and windows.

September 19th - Hurricane Maria, a cat-5 hurricane hit at night. As if to finish off what Irma left standing.

With the island littered with everything from rooftops to crumpled cars, Maria tossed it all into the wind again.



My personal photos from Irma.

It has taken me a long while to even look through my Irma and Maria photos to make this post.


Irma knocked me from the top of Maslow's 'hierarchy of needs' pyramid with 220MPH+ winds. I survived, but I did a faceplant in the dirt at the bottom of his pyramid and lost my ability to create.

The marina photos are 3 days after Irma, we were only a half mine away but we couldn't get out of our drive or down our road the first few days, it was blocked with pieces of our neighbors' homes, trees and downed telephone poles and lines. We didn't know if my husbands business was still standing in the boat yard of the marina, all communications were down and a curfew was in place as we shoveled glass and swept out water.


In hindsight. I'm so grateful to my parents. I didn't know as a kid that our fun rough-camping trips were teaching me survival skills. They came in handy.


As I huddled on the floor behind a heavy desk in my studio (the most sheltered room of the house) with my wide-eyed pets, the barometric pressure sucked painfully at our ears. The sound of the wind and rain was loud and unearthly. The house groaned under strain as pieces of our neighbors' homes broke free in the wind, slamming into ours, banging and shuttering through the concrete block and tile. The noise was an ear-piercing roar of crashing freight trains, screeching metal to metal on the roof as if skidding on iron rails.


It was too loud for me to hear a shout, but I read my husband's lips, "Get Down!" The bowing interior door of the studio (he had been holding closed with all of his strength for over thirty minutes) was breaking free. The force of the wind and the door threw him across the room, where he crashed into a table and hit his head. He crawled around behind the desk, exhausted, a rising goose egg and gash on his forehead, and asked how badly he was bleeding.


We stayed tucked behind the desk with our pets clinging to us as the hurricane and tropical force winds raged on until dawn.


Later we discovered the solid door hadn't broken; the entire door frame split away from the concrete wall in splinters and crashed, door frame and all up against a solid bookshelf.


And Irma had blown out all of the windows and doors on the east and west side of the house, and our roof had lifted, showing a shiny ring of daylight around the vaulted ceiling where it met the wall (that close, to coming off completely).



I thought after we'd survived the hurricane (there were a couple of hours in there when we honestly didn't know if we would), we would dust ourselves off from the long horrify night, and it would be a matter of picking up the pieces and moving on.


But moving on was slow and complicated.


Hurricane Irma spared few. For some, nothing was left but their home's foundation. And even the most well-constructed houses on the island had roof damage and windows and doors blown out.


The British Troops were anchored offshore within days to distribute bottled water, food rations, patrol the island to keep the peace (looting), and enforce curfews. They were a welcome sight.


Two weeks after Irma, Hurricane Maria, another Cat-5 hurricane, hit and finished what tatters Irma had left.

With the island littered with everything from rooftops to crumpled cars, Maria tossed it all into the wind again.

It was a surreal night.

With our house unsafe to ride it out in, we sheltered in a friend's house who had experienced the surge and flooding of Irma but less wind damage. I spent the night curled up on the floor behind a locked bathroom door, trying to calm myself and my pets, who were shivering and crying with fear. It was all too much of a repeat. We lived for eight months without power and water to the house.


All utility poles on the island were broken into splinters or knocked down. The cisterns were full of dirt, salt, and debris. The cell and WIFI towers were all down. Stores, gas stations, and banks couldn't open. Many businesses couldn't reopen, even months later, because their employees couldn't return to work until their basic living needs were met, like a roof, water, food, and their kids had supervision (no schools could reopen). The port was jammed with abandoned containers and nothing could come in or go out. Maria had hit Puerto Rico hard, and they were one of the main suppliers of building materials to the BVI, which they now needed for themselves.


We had to conserve what water we had. We caught rainwater in a 40-gal trashcan, and we hauled our drinking water up from the marina in 5-gal jugs.


I did dishes outside, on a table made with a door on two sawhorses, for the ease of daylight and water barrel location. I washed our laundry by hand in 2 five-gallon buckets (half-filled to conserve) and hung it out on our small clothesline and temporary ropes strung across the driveway.

After my reserved stash of good drinking water ran out, we collected de-sal from the marina where my husband had his business. Happily, the marina was willing to share, not only with us but a whole community without safe drinking water. A cholera outbreak was a real threat on the island.


In December, we were able to buy a small gas generator from a friend who was leaving the island (airport opened). The generator was enough to have lights for an hour or two in the evening while we had a bucket shower using our rain catch, and I cooked dinner under the luxury of incandescent lights.

But we couldn't run this luxury-power for long. It drank about $6 an hour in fuel, which quickly adds up when no income is coming in. In those two hours, it would cool the fridge so I could use it like a cooler for vegetables and eggs, but it wasn't on long enough to make ice. Ice was a luxury we didn't have.


I'm grateful we had a propane stove to cook on and to make us coffee in the mornings with my 1950's vintage stovetop percolator. We were used to random power outages, so having propane, extra drinking water and a percolator on hand wasn't unusual. Living in the islands prepares you for the occasional power-free and wifi-free days but this...


After eight months and heading into the next hurricane season with our blown-out windows still covered with salvaged plywood, and a spectacularly shitty day, my frontier woman genetic makeup started to glitch.


To be continued...




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