Trapped inside, in the dim light of the oil lamp, stifled by the heat, while the wind roars around the house. Shutters closed, electricity fails, sounds of debris flying around, and horizontal rain raging.
No, I haven’t been in a hurricane, and hope not to be. But this is how I imagine it might be like. If it’s as loud as the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, then it would be terrifying. Bermuda’s last hurricane to make landfall was Gonzalo in 2014, that was category two. But if you’re talking about hurricanes with anyone who experienced one, it’s Fabian that comes up every time. That was in 2003, reached category three, and four people were swept away off the causeway and died as a result. Boats ended up on lawns, roofs ripped off houses, power went out when trees came down, the road was washed out to the airport and the damage exceeded $300,000,000*. So it’s hurricane time of the year here, and all we can do is prepare and be vigilant. Right now we are watching the websites for information about Tropical Depression Erin and Tropical Storm Dorian as they hopefully pass by.
When my lovely husband first arrived on the Island, he was on his own, because I was finishing off my university degree in the UK. The very first week, the weather took a turn for the worst and he called me to let me know they were in a category one. That was enough for the bay to wash up onto the lawn and threaten coming in the front door of his temporary accommodation, and to sink some of the boats in the harbour. He wasn’t very impressed as he was renting a scooter to get to work and back and trying to ride it in howling winds, and slippery roads. When it rains here the roads become rivers so passing cars whoosh water up over unsuspecting pedestrians and bikes. Most people are really careful, but with the narrowness of the lanes, it just can’t be avoided sometimes. It really amazes me how specific the rain is too. I was walking just two kilometers away from home this morning, and got a tiny bit of drizzle. Enough to have to clean my sunglasses. About five hundred metres further along the road, the water was racing down the asphalt, huge puddles had formed, and trees were dripping madly. I only got wet feet and marveled at how it had missed me. When I arrived back, my neighbour said he was on one side of the house in the sun, and it was raining on the other side when he went around the corner!
So what to do to prepare for a hurricane? Guidelines** with my amendments are:
- Have a radio that is battery or solar powered to be able to listen to emergency broad casts
- Know the emergency radio station to tune to
- Have the emergency contact numbers written down in case you need them
- Check shutters over windows and doors are working
- Have means to store and purify water in case of a power cut (my sister found out recently that the pump stops working)
- Have means to cook ie. Gas stove (but be careful because these shouldn’t be used in enclosed spaces with no ventilation)
- Have enough food to last at least three days
- Have long burning candles for light or an oil lamp (if you have no emergency generator)
- Bucket for flushing the toilet
- Machete or chainsaw to cut through fallen foliage or clear roads
- Plastic, plywood and duct tape in case windows blow out (we’re hoping our Neighbour has the plywood stashed somewhere because we haven’t got any room to keep things like that!)
- And bits and pieces like spare batteries, torches, rope, bleach, gloves, first aid kit, rubbish sacks to wrap dead bodies in, you know that kind of thing
So what you actually do if there is a hurricane threatening:
- Keep an eye on http://www.weather.bm to find out its trajectory and how serious it is
- Head home if it gets serious because we live over the causeway and it might get closed (New Zealand home just came to mind, but safer to stay put!)
- Buy Black Seal Rum, Goslings ginger beer, and lime enough for three days
- Make sure you top up any item that’s been ‘borrowed’ from the emergency food bag
- Take inside anything that could blow away in the wind from outside eg. Chairs, tables, cars, boats (just kidding about the last two, but they actually might blow
- Take the air conditioner out of the window
- Close shutters, windows but leave one open about an inch to reduce pressure
- Unplug all electrical appliances, and if you have a generator, once that’s running and the powers switched over, plug them all back in again
- If you don’t have a generator, leave one light switch on so you know when the power comes back on
- Fill the bath with water (you might want to give it a weak bleach wipe first)
- Realise that you’re possibly not going to wash properly for three days…….
- Put on social media for friends and family in several countries to not expect contact for a few days due to no WiFi or power and not to panic
- Don’t go outside when the wind stops the first time, it’s the eye of the storm and will start up again for the encore
- Eat the contents of your fridge first, freezer second and emergency food bag last, but not all on the first day
- Play board games, use high drain devices until the batteries run low, and drink rum until it’s over
- Emerge from home gingerly at first because safety is paramount then check on your neighbours
After the hurricane I imagine that the central business district will be priority for power repairs. We live in, well it’s like living in the country in New Zealand or Wales, a bit off the beaten track. So we would expect to be reconnected last, especially if roads have to be cleared to get to us first. Bermuda houses are built to withstand hurricanes. They are solid lime stone or concrete block, reinforced with steel rods. We have been assured that the house we live in won’t be going anywhere in a bad one, so that is a relief. Right so where’s that torch?!
If you read this and have experienced a hurricane, please write about it in the comments. I would love to hear about it.
Next week I’ll be onto a nicer subject and will update you all on my latest snorkeling finds……
More soon – Sally
*Information sourced via: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bermuda_hurricanes
**Information sourced via: http://bernews.com/weather/hurricane-preparation/emergency-supply-lists/
If you would like to see some Hurricane Fabian Photos you can check them out here: