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Hurricane Maria – St. Croix USVI – Category 5 Hurricane

 

We discovered Maria was coming on my birthday.  The next day, I had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in awhile.  We were just coming off some 6 or 7 days post Irma and were now facing a direct hit from another category 5.  To say that the air was tense is probably the understatement of the year.

Once again, we battened down the hatches, prepared the best we could and hunkered down.  There were 4 of us and our 5 fur babies that got together to ride out the storm in our neighbors downstairs apartment.  There are a few things that I learned about hurricanes {as I’d never before experienced one}.  Hurricanes are mostly about anxiously waiting, before, during and after.  Hurricanes bring about some crazy pressure that mess with your ears.  Hurricanes seem to have no rhyme or reason to what they destroy and what they decide to leave be.  Example, our neighbors house was completely destroyed.  Everything was turned upside down and pieces of his house were scattered all across the mountain but a few potted plants and mason jars remained intact and unmoved.  It was like that at our place too. An outdoor decorative wall sconce was untouched but so many of our beautiful hundred year old trees were ripped from the earth and carelessly mangled and cast off.

That first night was the first of many long, sleepless nights.  As the night progressed, Maria got louder.  An angry, scorned lady who unceasingly howled into the night, unrelenting in her pursuit to those in her path.  As she violently battered against our doors and windows, it was around 1 or 2 when we finally fell asleep for, and I kid you not, 5 minutes when we heard yelling to find that the doors had become unlatched and were threatening to blow out.  My husband jumped into action trying to screw in pieces as another person held the door shut. In shock and disbelief, I watched as the door flew open and the moments that proceeded are like an out of body experience.

We grabbed all of the dogs and rushed into the back room.  It had no door to begin with and we just watched, completely dumbfounded as Maria flew in with all her fury.  Part of the ceiling was the first to go.  I will never forget the moment when Monopoly blew open and all of its pieces and paper monies swirled in the air like a sick and magical joke.  Later, we found monopoly money glued to the backs of chairs and tile alike.

We were somehow safe in our room, huddled together and as the storm reached its peak then began to soften, we all melted into slumber as if it were no longer possible to physically hold our bodies in such tight anxiousness.  But of course, the rain began to pound in and we awoke for a second time to water pouring on our faces.  But that is nor here nor there in the grand scheme of things.

I woke up abruptly a few hours later and the first thing my eyes met was a completely drastic landscape.  My backyard has always been lush and green.  My backyard is now grey and barren.  Everything was completely defoliated.  Where once the vibrant flamboyant and bougainvillea proudly blossomed were naked sticks. It broke my heart.

We spent that first hour roaming around like zombies until practicality settled in.  We spent the rest of the day clearing debris.  We lost part of our roof, everyone’s doors had broken down, some windows had shattered, a power line had fallen on our front porch and water had flooded in to every part of the house.  I spent most of the day just pushing out the pervasive flood and scrubbing down every surface covered in earth.  Another thing I learned about hurricanes?  The stink they leave behind.  The fresh piles of brush are fine but they quickly goo up and diffuse their stench.  I think I dove into bed around 7 that night.  Without supper.  That never happens.

The very next day, we decided to scout out our mountain side on foot.  We discovered that one of our neighbors dwellings {who lives in a yurt and is off island} had been completely demolished.  We found 5 dogs that were desperate for food and water so every day that followed, we hiked down to feed them.  The rubble that was once his house was surreal to stand in.  His toilet was flung upside down in the midst of food and personal affects.  Some of his possessions had even made it further down the mountain.  Everything was gone.

Half way down our mountain, we met up with another group and up and down the mountain we went amongst the devastation like a scene right out of The Walking Dead.  We quickly exchanged information and from them, we learned that we weren’t in the path of another hurricane!!!!  However, it might be several months before power was restored.  In one video clip, I captured my husband walking a path with felled trees and power lines with provision in bag and machete in hand.  This was the reality right now.  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much canned corn as I have then.  I will always have a soft spot for canned corn now.

We all pitched in to help each other and that is something I just love about our island.  We affectionately call these people our island family.  It’s the island way.  This was even more significant as we couldn’t reach out to our respective family’s to tell them that we were ALIVE!  We labored long hours together, side by side and boosted each others morale by sharing anecdotes and attempting to make each other laugh.  That second night, as food become a surfacing desire and need, we came together with a collaborative meal.  I dined on lobster during Irma {explained in my Irma post} and that night, we dined on steak.

Unfortunately, our generator failed after the first day and we were without power {and cell/data service long after}.  We polished off supper with ice cream soup and shared in camaraderie in the glow of our lanterns.  So, we had some house damage and we’d lose our fridge full of food.  We had gotten through it without dying or getting hurt.

We spent many more of the following days hiking the 3 miles up and down our mountain to gather information.  We were pretty isolated on our mountain top and more often, our radio would cut out and we weren’t getting any cell service at all.  We visited the shelter a few times to charge our phones and learn about the rest of the island.  It wasn’t atypical for news to be scarce.  It didn’t help that national news coverage was generally ignoring us.  We had learned about a few lootings but were hopeful that our island as a whole was alright.

Remember what I said about all the waiting?  The night before welled up a queasy nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach as we waited to see what was to come. The days after?  Another brand of uncertainty as we waited to see how long we’d be without a connection to the outside world.  I have a certain routine, as most people do with my days.  When all of that falls away, you tend to feel lost and befuddled.  When all of the work that can be done is done, it’s not like happy-go-time or relaxing with all of this extra time on your hands.  I found myself rebelling against laying still and the thought of piecing together a puzzle made me want to silently scream.  Like I said, my heart was broken.  We were suppose to be a safe haven for our sister islands.  It was all a sick joke.

While walking up and down our mountain, we gained higher visibility. Remember the lush greenery I was talking about?  When that’s no longer there, you can see through the barren trees and really assess the situation.  I’m happy to report that not too many roofs had flown off but flooding and felled trees were prevalent all over.  Our once, albeit rough unpaved road, was now deeply cracked and one part had even fallen off to create an ironically beautiful waterfall.  Entire trees or limbs tangled the path ahead and we walked through running water and climbed through brush and power lines alike to forge ahead.

Forge ahead we will.  I have hope, still that our island will rebuild into something bigger and better.  All over, you’ll see #VISTRONG and I know it to be true.  We are strong.  We are resilient.  We are together.

 

2 thoughts on “Hurricane Maria – St. Croix USVI – Category 5 Hurricane

  • angelitacarmelita says:

    So worried about you guys, and no I was furious that there was virtually no news about St. Croix on the news. jerks. I don’t know what we can do to help you and your neighbors, and the thought of all of those hungry animals makes me so upset. Please let us know how we can help. So blessed that you guys were not harmed. Much love!!

  • Angie. I am glad you and your family are ok. Keeping you all in my prayers.

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