The pictures are surreal and the stories, heartbreaking! Like many who were fortunate to not have suffered through the horrific Hurricanes that caused havoc and destruction in the Caribbean and in the Southern US states these past couple of months, I nearly escaped this dilemma just a year ago. In October of 2016, I had just began to settle into my new environment, when I received an email at work that quickly force me to adapt to my new reality. The email was an alert from the Bermuda Weather Service and the Ministry of Education informing the residents about “hurricane Nicole”, a category three storm set to hit the island in just short of 72 hours. The email was also accompanied by a “Hurricane Preparedness’ attachment, instructing residents on how to get ready for what was thought to be the second largest storm to hit the island dead on. Immediately after learning of the news, the Government responded quickly by closing schools, while most businesses began their “Hurricane Nicky” sales of food, supplies, gasoline, water, wood for boarding and everything you needed to get ready for the storm. My view out the window on the ride home were of families nailing down shutters, boarding windows and doors, pre-filling generators and unloading the trunk of perishable goods to store as the countdown continues on with Nicole fastly approaching. Living in the Midwest all my life, I was accustomed to heavy winds, freezing temperatures and snow. Finding myself in a crunch, preparing for a Hurricane shook a fear into me as I could only reflect on images I’ve seen on television about places that had suffered through these storms, the lives that were lost and the spirits broken. I would never forget the images of Hurricane Katrina and ironically learning of the news about this storm forced me to act quickly so that I wouldn’t end up like most of those poor people. Having no means to travel by car, nor by flight I was force to wait out the storm.
With fear settling in, I had already began to leave messages in my DM and Skype family members until I was unable to do so, as the island would later shut down the telecommunication towers and which left me without power for a few days. While I completed my most of my shopping, ran enough water in my bathtub for sanitary use, grab cash from the ATM to make emergency purchases, pre-cooked some items to eat, the downpour was just beginning. Having to commute mostly by public transportation, I made it to the library just in time to get some novels and to send my mind into another space reading the works from my favorite author by flashlight. On day three, while less than 100 miles off the coast, the storm was downgraded to a category one but the rain and winds caused large amounts of damage to the exterior of homes, lawns, roads and businesses in town. I set out with my landlady to take pictures of the destruction and to check on my elderly neighbors.
With only suffering through not having power for a few days and a few broken tree limbs, I have officially survived my first tropical cyclone Not to sound joyful, but grateful as I now can see the trauma a strong storm can cause reflecting on the Caribbean, Houston, Florida and now Puerto Rico. I have since began volunteering in the outreach programs supporting the victims of these natural disasters, the thought will never escape me that this has now become my new normal. I have discovered the Summer and Spring months can be quite relaxing on an island, but truthfully, assimilating into the Hurricane seasons in the Fall is very unnerving and quite timorous.