How Hurricane Irma Changed My Life
So I finally get to share my hurricane experience with everyone. Yes I know this post is super late but I JUST got WiFi back last week. Prior to that Internet service was really slow and I was unable to upload or download large files.
I arrived in Anguilla August 20, 2 weeks prior to hurricane Irma, and I really enjoyed myself. But of course I had no idea that this little island was soon to experience the worst hurricane in history. A few days leading up to the hurricane I saw a news clip from Fox 5 that upgraded the hurricane from a category 3 to a 4. I remember going on YouTube to find videos of Category 4 hurricanes. I wanted to see the type of devastation left. The amount of destruction. Immediately I remembered hurricane Ivan in Grenada and how it totally destroyed my country, it was a category 4. I also researched Anguilla's hurricane history. The worst recorded hurricane in the country was about 20 years prior, hurricane Luis. I started to become very nervous. I had never experienced a caribbean hurricane before. I was obsessed, I would track the hurricane online every waking moment. The good thing was that we knew the exact day and time range the island would be hit. I also went to the supermarket everyday! Batteries, flashlights, canned goods, matches, buckets (to fill water), and anything else I could think of. I had to visit multiple stores to find these items, as most were sold out. Just standing in line with the locals I could see that they were not phased. To me, it seemed like they were used to hurricanes and didn't think this one would be that bad. Me on the other hand, was freaking out! My apartment was very close to the sea and I imagined the worst. My friends here reassured me that as long as I wasn't on the bottom floor and I was in a concrete building with a concrete roof I would be ok.
Hurricane Irma had been upgraded to a catastrophic category 5 hurricane. Every second I thought about the damage it might do, I cried so much. I really thought I was going to die or the roof was going to fly off. I initially thought to stay in my apartment during the hurricane but all my friends and family persuaded me to do otherwise. So at the last minute, the night the hurricane was to make landfall, I packed up a few things and went to South Hill to stay with a friend and her family. I had a rental car, but I called the owner to have him come pick it up. All I could imagine was a coconut tree falling on it.
That night we stayed up chatting and catching up on Power until we lost wifi service and electricity. After our phones stopped working we knew that Irma was very close. I remember falling asleep around 11 pm or midnight. I was then awakened by the sound of the wind howling like nothing I had ever heard before. The wind was knocking on all the doors and windows, as if asking to enter. Irma was being polite, for now. It was about 4am. I went back to sleep although everyone in the house was awake. Then about 5 or 6 am I was awakened by my friend Treva and her mom yelling my name "Sidd! Sidd! Come and see this!" I hopped out of bed and ran to the living room. Everyone was gathered around the window leading to the veranda. When I looked out the window it was so dark I couldn't see anything so her brother gave me his flashlight. I was in awe. The winds were so incredibly strong that they bent and swayed every single tree. The sound of the wind is something I can never forget, it was like a tornado outside. Despite the chaos that was happening around us, we somehow retained a sense of normalcy. Her mom fried fish and Johnny cakes, we drank merlot and ate sugar apples, and just tried to make the best of a bad situation.
Then a little after 6 am shit got real. Shutters flew off of every window in the house. The door leading to the garage split in two and outside all we could see was fallen trees. Bedrooms started flooding and sewage started to come up in the bathroom. One bedroom's window was blown out and the force of the wind in that room was inexplicable. It tore the door off the hinges. Her father and brother attempted to nail the door back so the wind and rain wouldn't destroy the remainder of the house. I remember her dad, mom and I pushing the door against the wind as her brother tried to nail it back. Three grown adults against the wind and we were losing. Her father lost his balance and fell and I just remember feeling like I couldn't hold up the door anymore because my arms were growing so tired. Tears filled my eyes, at that moment I just wanted it all to stop. Thankfully he was able to put the door back up and her dad was ok. By now it was maybe 9 or 10 am and things weren't as intense anymore. We went outside to survey the damage. It was still very windy so we had to be careful of flying debris. Every tree and every bush was barren . No greenery at all what so ever, just sticks remained. Every tree and utility pole was down. Later we went on a drive to see what the island looked like. It was devastating. Of course the entire country lost electricity and internet service. Well only Flow phones were working, but nowhere to charge anything. All power lines were down, trucks and cars were turned over, houses were missing windows, doors, and roofs. The lucky ones who boarded up their homes had little damage but EVERYONE had some damage, especially flooding in their homes. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Charming little food shacks and bars were totally destroyed and anything else that wasn't made of concrete. Debris everywhere. All I could think of was how long would it take to get back to normal?
When I got back to to my place it was flooded. Because of its proximity to the sea the winds were stronger so the entire neighborhood was almost unrecognizable. But outside was worse than inside. The storm shutters protected my glass balcony doors, but the wind blew the sliding door off track through the shutters! The water pooled on my balcony and filled my apartment with about 3 inches of water. But that was thankfully all the damage incurred. Anything I left on the floor was damaged.
What people don't know about these kinds of hurricanes is the amount of time it takes for a county to snap back. Gas was scarce, ice, cooked food, batteries, candles, so many things we take for granted. Supermarkets with generators set up charging stations where people could charge their phones. I normally charged mine in my car but then once my battery died from that. I remember sitting in a gas station line for 2 hours praying my car wouldn't run out of gas. There was a time when only 1 or 2 gas stations were open on the entire island. Because my apartment only had an electric stove I was unable to cook or heat any food. I either had friends bring me food, I would get a lot of dinner invites, or I would eat out everyday (how I gained 10 pounds). I remember I watched a YouTube video and learned how to make a stove from tea light candles. That made me so excited. I made a little stove like MacGuyver and warmed my water for bucket baths, heated my canned goods, and even warmed my iron to press my clothes. My life had totally changed in a matter of hours. I went from having all of life's modern conveniences to living like I was in the stone ages. Little things like a cold drink, a cup of ice, running water or a fully charged phone were now luxuries.Some of you may ask why I didn't just leave, well in the beginning that crossed my mind a few times. Especially before the hurricane. But I will elaborate more on that in an upcoming post. Anyway, so fast forward 4 months and now life on the island is almost back to normal. I got electricity back in my area mid November but I had temporarily moved to a place with a generator back in October. Some areas received electricity earlier, some later. But the entire island was at 100% by mid December. And now I have Internet again. So I'm back in business, so so sorry for the delay. Life got real. Since I've been through this I know that I am stronger than I ever imagined. I also learned that there are things in life that we feel we can't live without...but the truth is that we absolutely can.