It occurred to me a few days ago that we might finish the hurricane season without getting hit. Then one of my neighbors asked if I’d heard that a storm was approaching. I hadn’t. It was so early in its formation, it didn’t even have a name.
By Monday, it did: Sandy. I know a few people who share the name and had a little laugh at their expense. But there would be no joking about this Sandy.
She was headed directly for Jamaica on a path that would have her cross directly south to north through the center of the island. I was nervous. A broad storm passing through central Jamaica would have untold impact on the entire island, not just the parishes in its path.
I have clear memories of a hurricane that brushed Jamaica when I was about 5 or 6. By the time the storm had passed, our street and lawn were flooded, and there was neither electricity nor water. At that age, it seemed like fun.
Older, and hopefully wiser now, I’m fully aware of the damage a hurricane can cause. Hurricanes are wildly unpredictable and this one had Jamaica in its crosshairs.
Twenty plus years ago, Hurricane Gilbert’s eye also crossed Jamaica. One of the most dangerous storms to hit the island, it killed fifty people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage. It took the country months before it returned to normal.
Gilbert made us take notice. It provided fodder for the song of the same name that Lovindeer, a local musician, wrote in its praise. Wild, Wild, Wild Gilbert became a wildly successful hit that year. Yea, I was nervous but I didn’t fully get how nervous until Sandy passed.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Wednesday afternoon near Kingston, crossed northeast and continued out to sea near Portland. It battered the eastern parishes of Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary and caused much damage to parts of Kingston and St. Catherine.
Fierce winds brought down power lines, flattened banana plantations, damaged houses, blew off roofs, felled trees and caused rivers to overflow their banks. Residents in low lying areas were evacuated and there was a curfew in certain areas until 6pm tonight. So far, only one death has been attributed to Sandy — a man was killed when a boulder rolled over on to his house.
We were lucky here in the west — I’ve seen heavier rainfalls than what we eventually received. It got a little windy but damage was negligible. We lost power and water for 2 hours, during the afternoon but I didn’t even have to take out my lantern.
It was overcast this morning but the sun finally broke through and I feel ten pounds lighter. I didn’t even realize that I had a knot in my stomach the last few days until it was no longer there.
After hitting Jamaica and Haiti, Hurricane Sandy moved north to Cuba, the Bahamas and is now headed towards the mainland. Hopefully, she’ll weaken further and not cause any more damage.
So, what should you do if a hurricane hits while you’re traveling?
If it makes you feel more comfortable, try to get on an earlier flight home. It might cost you to change your ticket but peace of mind is priceless.
If you do decide to stay, make sure to follow the instructions given by hotel employees. They are experienced in handling hurricane-related circumstances. It goes without saying, stay away from water.
If you’re staying in a villa, you might want to make your way to a larger property to wait out the storm. The most important thing is to stay indoors until the storm passes. Be safe!