Just before we dove for cover
I awoke at around 5:30.. first light. It was cold and there was a cloud of damp everywhere. everything around the couch was damp. I picked my way over the “dyke” and stood in about 3 inches of water. Water was flowing quite freely throughout the house, like it was a water feature in a Chinese garden.There was water and broken roofing shingle everywhere, on every surface; on the kitchen counters, on the stove, on the fridge. To this day I still can’t figure out what all of this glass was from; there was so much of it. Looking up you could see the sky, still a little overcast but so serene. A large section of the kitchen roof was gone, of course this is the section below which is the fridge, the microwave and the stove. And of course they were all waterlogged. Up to now I have never plugged back in the microwave.
I couldn’t get to the front door, there was so much debris, so many items like chairs and computers that MrYY had moved. I waded to the bathroom that we were considering using as shelter – boy! Would that have been a bad idea! There was about 6 inches of water in there, broken sections of plywood had fallen through a hole above the bath. Even more strangely (and annoyedly) the toilet had backed up! Someone later told me that this is common with hurricanes and tornadoes – the fluctuating air pressure acts like a huge plunger sucking waste back up the sewage pipes and drains. Gross.
MrYY and John got up and cleared the doorway. When we opened the doorway – I tell you it was like nothing I ever imagined. I often say we are very spoiled and comfortable here in the Caribbean – we don’t know abject poverty, or true illiteracy, or even what daily death from violence and social upheaval is like. Our islands are pretty, and picturesque, prosperous, clean (for the most part), green and lush. That is not what we saw that morning.There are a lot of pictures of post-Ivan Grenada that show the damaged trees and uprooted vegetation but it looked so much worse in reality. Almost no tree standing had leaves on them. In many cases, even the bark was peeled off. As days wore on these trees and shrubs would dry out and turn brown, making the hillsides look (no offense here) like if we were in Haiti. Or drought striken Africa. Honestly, it was the sight of the dried trees, the brown, singed environment, that disturbed people, perhaps even more than the destroyed buildings. Grand Etang forest was flattened. 50 foot trees lay like match sticks. There are still people here who refuse to travel to Grand Etang even now; they don’t want to retain a visual memory of the forest dead and dying. I guess its like St Lucians waking up and finding one of the Pitons gone, or New Yorkers and the World Trade Center towers; its disorienting to realise that something so large and magnificent and omnipresent could just vanish like that.
Needless to say the front of my car was smashed in, the windscreen shattered, the radiator and front grille crushed, but it started when cranked! Our house? Well, see pictures below……
Guest room. Luckily John had his laptop bag on him rather than in this room.
Our bedroom. Notice the broken French door. And my missing curtain$!!!!!
Amazing to imagine the wind moved the bed like it was a piece of paper. At first, that chest of drawers was actually wedged against the bedroom door which is to the left of the shot. Flying debris in the room actually chipped plaster off the walls.
Since last year, many have pontificated about the significance of Ivan, its effect on Grenada and on the Grenadian people. There has been endless discussion of who was to blame for the lack of preparedness, the failure of the emergency relief agency, the breakdown of law and order and government immediately following. I’m not going to get into that on this blog; Hurricane Katrina has shown the world how easily the best-laid plans can go awry, how quickly communication and co-ordination can break down. Katrina reinforced a lesson – for me at least – you just cannot sit on your ass and wait for help. You’ve got to get off your butt and try to piece your life back together as best you can. Here in the West Indies we do not have the luxury of a limitless federal treasury, massive government assistance, state-provided debit cards for cash, etc. That we each have to figure out ourselves. What we (as a country) did get was the overwhelming generousity and support of our island friends and neighbours. Let me take the opportunity here and now to say thank you to everyone who gave money, time, food, clothing, prayers, thoughts and good wishes. They were, and will always be, appreciated.
I remember listening to CBC radio [Barbados] – our lifeline for news and information – on the day that they held the telethon. The station was hoping to raise BDS$250,000; in the end the pledges and donations totalled more than BDS$1mil. Many Grenadians cried that day, listening to the radio. The support of the Barbadian people stunned and overwhelmed us; it would be days and weeks before we would become aware of the other massive relief efforts going on in Trinidad, Guyana, St Lucia, etc. Sport fishing boats, trawlers, and private yachts brought in food, ice, water, medicine, diapers, good cheer and hugs of comfort. Planes were landing at the airport with boxes of supplies, not labelled to anyone in particular; the pilots spoke of ordinary citizens of St Vincent or Antigua who would show up at the airports with boxes of food and ask them to “just bring it to Grenada and give it to someone, anyone”. At work, our clients (all foreign) created an Relief Fund for our employees. The donations totalled over EC$125,000!
So, what have I learnt from Ivan?
1. BE PREPARED. Have adequate supplies of water, medicine and food in your house at all times.
2. Have a bag/bags packed with dry clothes and important documents (passports, IDs, bank things).
3. Keep your shoes for the duration of the storm… 🙂 Yeah, that would have saved us all a lot of pain and suffering.
4. Have a plan. Know what to you are going to do in the event of the house collapsing, in case you get separated, in case someone is injured.
5. Being without water is worse than being without power, cable, telephone and internet combined.
6. Every bad situation creates opportunities for change or for good.
6. Hold the Scotch bottle close! *smile*
And in closing, behold the VapMat-O Deluxe, the carefully thought out invention of MrYY and John. VapMat anti-mosquito tablets on a soup can being heated by a candle. We doh need no electricity, yo!