There’s been a wee gap between my last blog and this one, which you all may have noticed. That’s because there has been a few events holding up my writing process. Firstly, I have well and truly put my back out, lifting the container of spare water we decided we could use now the threats of hurricanes have eased a little. Secondly we have had a wonderful visit from some of our UK friends which kept me rather busy last week. And thirdly we did indeed have a hurricane, rendering us without power for a day, and the internet has been spasmodic since then. These of course are all excuses, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for now.
So Humberto is not the most terror inducing name for a hurricane, but it was definitely that. The thing that struck me first was the amount of time there is to prepare. Weather forecasts in modern day terms show the hurricane gradually gaining strength, and the predicted pathway. It wasn’t going to actually pass over our tiny island, but swipe by very closely and wreck havoc with the winds that accompany it’s swirling nature. Having never experienced a hurricane before we had no idea what to expect, and the example of the Bahamas had visions of total devastation in it’s wake.
Reality was like this. We went to the shops and stocked up on canned food. Canned food because if the power goes out, it could be for quite sometime and the easier it is to prepare meals the better. If you don’t have to wash up, use dishes, can eat out of the can, or make a simple sandwich, all the better. When the power goes out, you don’t want to open your fridge if you can help it, because in the heat, everything goes off quickly. The shops were packed with people and supplies were stripped off the shelves. Lesson one, go to the shops earlier.
Next check the shutters. Are they closing properly? How fast can we shut them if necessary. We spent most of the build up not knowing if we would need them or not, but once realised that we did, were sure that we could manage them in the wind. It gets windy quite fast once the hurricane gets close, and there’s lots of debri flying around so best to have this done earlier than later. When the weather reports showed it actually coming our way, we got those shutters closed, except the one over the front door. It has a small section that can be left open to be able to see what’s going on. When we needed to shut this part, I was sure my lovely husband was going to lose his fingers because it kept blowing out of his hands in the fierce wind and slamming back on itself. I had already been worried about poor George my adopted Jamaican Anole losing his tail, again. My mind was a little active with thoughts of severed digits and hours trapped inside, then having to negotiate tree blocked roads before medical assistance could be sought, with fingers in a bag and a lizard wrapped in cotton wool. This didn’t happen much to my relief. Lesson two, close the front door shutter earlier.
Clearing the property of anything that could fly away in the wind was paramount to preparation. I have walked past child’s toy ride on cars, broken chairs, parts of rubbish bins, and you name it, it has flown by and broken in the deluge. We even took out the removable clothesline, tied down the bins, and picked up every piece of sea glass we have been collecting over the last months. Flying glass is not a good idea in anybody’s worst nightmare.
Fill a water container with new drinking water for immediate use. Some people don’t bother with this and just fill the bath tub. We thought we would have showers as late as possible in the day, then fill the bath tub, after giving it a wipe with weak bleach. All reports were that it wasn’t going to be bad and we shouldn’t need to bother with this. We lost our power at 1630, when the transformer blew out on the street. It wasn’t even windy yet, so we were able to check out what was going on with our neighbour. We realised that we could dip for water from the water tank once it was all over, but that’s the optimum word – when it’s all over. There’s no going there while the hurricane is raging. I got about two inches of water into the bath and it went a muddy brown colour and then the tap stopped. The pump had cut out with the power. So we could drink water but not flush the loo. Bugger. Lesson three, make sure the bath is filled even if you think you might not need it.
So there’s no power, no lights, no kettle, no hot water, no fridge, no shower until the power is restored. We are very lucky that our property has a generator, which was quickly put into action the next day. This meant we had power restored in just twenty four hours. Other’s were not quite so lucky, and a week on some people still don’t have their power. I did like the joke going around on Facebook though about the guy complaining that he was still devoid of power and all his neighbours were back on, to be told he hadn’t paid his bill! During the hurricane, a window is left open for ventilation, and to make sure your windows don’t explode with the air pressure. I felt confident enough to bake a quiche in our gas oven, crochet a doily for if nothing else the want for something to do, and we pre-charged the laptop to watch a movie on old fashioned DVD. See sometimes it pays to be behind the times technology wise, just a little. We needed to get petrol for the generator and were very confident that we had taken cash out for this very reason. This was recommended because no power means no cash machines, no pay by card, and cash is needed to purchase anything. We were well and truly foiled by that one, the petrol station was unmanned after hours, and the pumps were card only! Lesson four learnt the hard way. Power was restored to us really fast and the petrol we did manage to get sufficed. However if it had been a good week or more, that could have been devastating. We now know that it’s impossible to siphon gas from the car, so there’s always good amongst the bad.
The wind itself howled. Howled and had sticks and leaves and crap hitting the house. The shutters were quite secure so it wasn’t as rattly as I expected. It hits the house from one side, then there’s a gap, and it then hits the house from the other side as the eye passes over you. I didn’t like the being trapped inside bit, with everything shut, but really there’s nothing you can do, so we went off to sleep no problem with the help of our well stocked dark ‘n stormies hurricane kit. I woke about 0100 and it was eerily calm so guessed the worst was behind us. All the while we were tuning into the emergency government radio station which had reports all through the night about hurricane status, police, army and weather officials. That was good to have.
The next morning everyone was up early, at the crack of dawn to survey the damage. My first impression was that everything looked as though it had been burned. The salt spray acts like a sand blaster and all the leaves left clinging to the trees were brown and dead looking. We had a tree down on the track to the dock which we worked on and cleared quickly. One of the boats in the bay dragged on it’s moorings and smashed into another boat on both sides making a lot of damage which was heart breaking for the owner who’s boat was secure. During the storm five feet waves were washing over the small island below us, so we were grateful for the tiny hill we live on that clears that height. The roads had masses of foliage and rubbish on them. Our UK friends were flying in that afternoon and their plane was delayed by just two hours while they surveyed the runway for safety and then opened the causeway connecting St George’s Island to the main one. Their timing couldn’t have been any better, in between the lead up with British Airways strikes, and cancelled flights for hurricanes, only twenty four hours earlier and they might not have got here. I was ever so grateful to be able to vacuum before they arrived as leaves and sticks and dirt had forced its way in with the wind, what a mess. Lesson five, don’t bother doing housework before the hurricane, I’m still finding leaves and twigs in places I didn’t know existed!
In the days afterwards we have seen the worst hit part of the island. People lost parts of roofs, when one tile dislodges and the wind gets in underneath, the whole lot goes. Trees have fallen onto houses and cars. Wires are down everywhere, being rapidly repaired by Belco, the power company. In just twenty four hours the main business sector was up and running like nothing ever happened. Bermuda houses are like bomb shelters and must be built according to specifications to withstand hurricane. They certainly can. I think one person got hurt in the clean up, and one had a heart problem during, but no deaths. Thank goodness. There’s a few more submerged boats about, and in one bay the boats are in places around the shoreline that they should never be, smashed. Even part of the rail trail was adorned with a mangled trampoline! I didn’t take many photos because it doesn’t seem right to publish others misfortune, when it could have easily been ours. The coast stayed rough for days especially on South Shore but we managed to snorkel a bit with our guests on the calmer side, however visibility wasn’t so great. Life guards were taken off the beaches and people were encouraged not to swim. Humberto was followed closely by other weather systems, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, and Lorenzo, which is winging it’s way towards the UK right now.
The thing that amazed me is when you see hurricanes on the news there’s always masses of rain, this one was dry. There was a little rain at first but the majority of it was dry winds with rubbish, not rain. I expected everything to be soggy soaked through the day after, but it was quite dry. Surely that helped the clean up, without wet trees weighing more than they already do, and people who lost roofs would have stayed fairly dry. The humidity proceeding it was at 95%, a very oppressive migraine inducing state, that toppled those of us that are susceptible over the next few days. I have visions of my Dad calling me like he used to ‘Headache? Must be a storm coming!’
Now the ants. The ants in Bermuda are quite something at the best of times, but currently they are magnificent. Displaced ants are ingenious about how they get in, seek out water and food, and infiltrate places you would never think to look for them. We think they are climbing the column to the floor above us, getting in through a crack somewhere down into our ceiling and then emerging in the pantry cupboard. Luckily there’s no food there but every time we need a cup or pot, it’s crawling with them. I’ve tried Baygon, citrus cleaner, white vinegar, hot soapy water, vacuuming them away, and back they come. Finding the source may be difficult this time. But we’ll persevere until they give up. My brain keeps thinking, thank god it’s not cockroaches! I’ll bomb the house again when my backs a little better……
More soon – Sally
Here’s the facts and figures about Humberto according to Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Humberto_(2019)