Ugh. I can't draw right now. I'm not used to my pencil on rough, bumpy watercolour paper. Perhaps I will draw things on different paper then photocopy the linework over onto the watercolour paper.
Now is a good a time as any to do my hurricane post. I did once last year about Keith, but it was rather short. I think I'll write about not only my experience, but other people's this time. And Hurricane Mitch.
First, Mitch in 1998.
Mitch began as a tropical wave off the coast of South America. It steadily strengthend in the warm waters of the Caribbean. I was doing my A Levels at college when we heard about it on the news. It had been moving steadily upward but then hit wind shear and loomed off the coast, making a beeline for us. At the time it was a large Category 4 with sustained winds of 150mph. My friend Mary started crying when she saw the satellite picture on the weather channel.
I was in the right place at the time (the mainland, and any sane person would have gone further inland) but my family were back on Ambergris Caye so I took a flight back there to be with them.
Later that night, Mitch intensified into a Cat 5 with maximum sustained winds of 180mph. In the morning, everyone was itching to leave. My family-and this included my aunties, uncles and cousins along with my immediate family- were waiting at the air strip. The hurricane was still far out, but it's bands had started to reach us and it was blustery day. Suddenly, someone came out of the reservations lounge and waves his hands in the air and shook his head. No more flights. Too dangerous to fly in this wind. It would have been equally mad to go by sea, as the waves were huge by then.
I remember my auntie bursting into tears at the time.
What did I feel? It's funny, I'm a really anxious person by nature, but in that moment something happened that I've not felt since. I just thought "right then. We're going to die." It was a very calm feeling, like acceptance. The storm was still hours away and yet I felt that.
We went out to the beach to have a look at the waves. Massive, rolling things. The Reef in the distance was a blur of white.
We decided to ride it out in my Aunt Rosie's house, near the back of the island. Another night rolled by with the eye of the storm directly in our beeline. We could hear the crunch of the waves from the house.
Then Mitch swerved and started to head for Honduras. It missed us.
Let me illustrate the power of this storm with a description.
After Mitch swerved we went out to look at the beach again. The waves were still stupidly big, only this time every single house and dive shop on the beach was either floating in the sea or wedged between houses up the street. The storm was 200 miles away from us, and this is what it made the beach look like.
Mitch let it's deluge loose over Honduras, causing tremendous mudslides and flooding and killing 11,000 people. Mitch actually reshaped the coast on Honduras, to the point where the actual map had to be changed.
I missed the fucker, and I'm glad, but I will never be glad people died. I remember being really angry with my grandma at the time. She said "it hit Honduras because there's a lot of prostitution there." Fail. Don't get me wrong. I love my grandma, but she really pissed me off that day.
2 years later, Keith hit us.
Keith was a much smaller storm than Mitch, and I'd like to stress this by saying if Mitch had hit me, I would not be here typing this. I promise you that. I know without a doubt I would have died. We all would have. Cat 5 storms carry storm surges of up to 30 feet. No building on the island was higher than 3 stories.
Anyway, back to Keith. It started in much the same area as Mitch, and moved slowly towards us. I remember my dad saying "It's bad when they slow down." He was right. They intensify. Whenever you're watching one on doppler radar- if it slows down start crapping your pants and leave if you can.
We were watching Keith on the weather channel before I went to bed.
At 3am I was woken by my dad who was saying "wake up, wake up, it's a Category 4. We have to leave the house."
When we went outside it was pitch black. The electricity had been shut off ahead of time to avoid any accidents. The wind was already howling through the wires making an eerie sounds. It was only about 60mph then, since the storm hadn't fully come ashore, but it made everything seem surreal and spooky. I was very scared, but not because of the wind. I was terrified looters would get us. We only had to walk a couple of blocks though, and we came to our friend's house. This house was in the process of being built, and lacked any windows, so instead wood had been boarded up over the holes and doorway.
My mum and I went to sleep on the floor on a matress. We had tinned food and a bucket to do business in- the basics.
When I woke up it felt like the wind was pushing against the wall outside. I can't describe it any other way. It felt like an entity shoving it's weight against the house. The noise of rain was incredible. Sheets of it coming down relentlessly.
One of the things about a hurricane, is the wind comes from one direction before the eye, and the other direction after it. We were able to peel back a board and look outside during the hurricane peak because of this. All the coconut trees were laying flat, there was water everywhere and no land in sight (so that wiki entry about there being no storm surge is a bunch of crap), and water was just...everywhere. In the air, on land, white water frothing all over the place. We saw a satellite dish fly off a building.
I slept through most of the hurricane. There isn't much else you can do, and listening to the sound it makes is enough to drive anyone mad.
When Ii next woke up I didn't even know what day it was- but it was calm. We were in the eye. According to reports the eye passed over us 3 times.
You really should not do this in the eye, but my dad and I did it anyway. We went down to road to assess the damage to our house. The roof had completely caved in. The only part of the house that hadn't was the two bedrooms. Our German Shepherd Charlie came bounding up to us as we came into the garden, but our other dog, Sniffy, was locked in my room. That door never locked. ever. Even if you slammed it it wouldn't even close properly- yet the hurricane had jammed it shut. My dad broke the door down and got the dog out. We got off lightly. We had insurance and our health. Other people lost their homes completely, as they lived in shacks on the back of the island. It's only through community help that a lot of those homes were rebuilt.
I saw the hurricane reconnaissance craft flying over us at one point. We went back to the shelter to ride out the second part of the storm before the eye passed. The storm was considerably weaker by then, probably a Cat 1.
In the morning we tried walking to town, which took a while given how much debris was lying around. Shit was everywhere. the electrical tower was twisted round and round a building. I don't even know how the hell that happened- unless Keith had mini tornadoes within it the way Hurricane Andrew did. The air strip was a total wreck, with planes lying on their back. A few months later I found a piece of zinc shoved into a coconut tree trunk. It was impossible to pull it out. As far as I know it's still there.
My family was ok. Unfortunately, one of my auntie's had her house completely destroyed. It was made of this type of material that sucks up water so the entire thing was one big soggy cardboard box by the end of it.
My friend swam out into the storm surge during the storm peak as her house was full of water and she would have drowned. She told me there were crocodiles floating about. I would have thought they'd be more concerned with their own well being at the time though.
CNN decided to do us a tremendous disservice and report us as "wiped off the face of the earth." Funny how they love to do this to other countries but bark on and on and on about their own when it happens to them.
The economy was affected as a result for a while, but is thankfully back to normal. The clean up took quite a while, but eventually the tourists started coming back.
You know what though? Mitch didn't even touch us, and it scared me a lot more than Keith. It scared the hell out of me. And I totally understand why people are scared of Gustav. I hope it blows itself out like Wilma did rather than restrengthening into a Cat 5.
ETA: Unlocking the post as some people have requested linking to it.
forgot about this, and just remembered this morning, my grandpa lived through Hurricane Hattie...when he was out to sea. Full article here
. He's Severo Castillo.