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Hurricane Voices: As Compiled By Dr. Ralph
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Page 1 of 1Total of 1 messages
Posted by:Oct 6th 2004, 07:29:46 pm
Fig Tree News Team…My house talks to me. I know my husband thinks I’m crazy, but I can tell which way the wind is blowing by the sounds of the wind chimes and the screen over the pool deck. During a hurricane, I hear new, different sounds. There are loud clunks, heavy rattles, and that terrible roar, almost like a monster. The roof creaks, rafters shift and moan. I can’t help but wonder, will it hold…

…A voice on our portable radio says radar is showing the formation of a tornado, about fifteen miles from us. It is moving in our direction; the man says it will arrive here at 12:04, and it’s 11:55. I gather my wife and the dog, and we crouch in the bathroom, our “safe room.” It is blowing about 50 mph outside, there is light rain, it’s horribly humid, and we are sweating bullets. I watch the clock; at 12:02 the sky darkens, the wind and rain pick up, and I wonder how can this be happening on the third day of a hurricane. We stare at thr floor and pet the dog, waiting. Somehow, it doesn’t get any worse, and by 12:10 the wind drops a little. Maybe it fizzled, maybe it missed us. They tell us there will be more…

…(from the Spanish) It is our fifth evening on this beach. 678 of us survive, ten less than yesterday. We are living off whatever washes up, casks of water, food. Two search parties returned late this afternoon, they found no fresh water, no settlements, a little small game. It is time to bury the woman and children for the night; we dig shallow trenches in the soft sand, they each crawl in, we cover their bodies with sand, and finally their heads with whatever cloth we can find. The insects are maddening, this is all we can do to protect them. The other officers agree with me, Havana will never know what has happened to us, we were well to the north when the storm wrecked the fleet. Perhaps we can signal another vessel passing up the coast; it is our only hope…

…My husband died today, two years after the storm. There was so much trash and debris, they made giant piles and burned everything. Somehow he inhaled toxic smoke (that’s what the doctors told us), we rushed him to the hospital. He laid in the ICU for weeks, then the ward and rehabilitation. He was gone for ten months. When he came back he just wasn’t right; we thought it was still his recovery, but the weight kept dropping off and his energy never returned. Three months ago he returned to the hospital to find his body consumed with cancer, another effect of the “toxic fumes.” Now I listen as his friends talk about his life and out tragedy, and I wonder how I can be a widow at 36…

…I’ve lived in Bimini all my life; I’ve never seen it like this. My wife and two daughters and I are huddled in a closet in the center of our cottage. The wind is so loud, we can scarcely talk to each other. The wall I am leaning against is starting to vibrate, and it is slowly leaning against me. There is a loud crack, the wall pushes against me, my wife cries out in fear, and we huddle closer. There will be hours of this, if we survive. I am so frightened, but I can’t let them know…

…They say a hurricane is coming, but I don’t believe them. It is the most gorgeous day I have ever seen, the sun is shining and there is only the slightest breeze. Clarice says the man on the TV is warning people not to be complacent, that this is “outflow” or a halo or something, the calm before the storm. I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m 81 years old, and I’m not leaving, I can’t, I’m too old. It took me two years to get in here. I just don’t think it will be that bad…

…It’s not the storm, it’s the aftermath. I went through this once before, it took three months before life was back to normal. Nassau takes care of Nassau first, we have to take care of ourselves. The cisterns will be damaged or salted out, water will be the first priority. There are no phones, no electricity. A few people have VHFs; how will they charge them? What will we eat? There will be no business, nothing for the tourists to visit until we can rebuild, and how will we do that? The harbour is a disaster, the docks are gone, boats are scattered everywhere. What will we do…

…I will die today if someone doesn’t find me. I have clinging to this spar for two almost two days. I’m in the open ocean, I can’t see land. The sun is unbearable, my mouth is raw. I am a sponger. We were anchored on the Bank well west Little Abaco. I’ve never seen the tide run the way it did, the water dropped from twelve to maybe four feet, the boats all grounded. Then the wind picked up, the water returned, and the storm came. We were unprepared, the boats were blown over, ripped apart, men were carried away. I lost my son, my farther, my friends. I’m so tired…

…I am huddled on the Queen’s Staircase with several others, we all ran from the waterfront, the flooding was terrible. The Civil War in America ended but two years ago, prosperity has disappeared, and now this. Warehouses, docks, ships, are all being destroyed. Across what used to be Nassau harbour, the ocean is washing over Hog Island, almost like it was just a sandbar. I am afraid there will be nothing left.

Hurricane Charley caught us off guard. We went to bed on the night of Thursday, August 12, relieved that NWS was predicting Charley would stay well to our west, out in the Gulf. The next morning I found myself staring at the new forecast track, one that would bring the storm directly through Ormond Beach. No one in the neighborhood boarded up; we hadn’t had a bad storm since Floyd in ’99, and that stayed 100 miles offshore. I guess we had just gotten complacent.

Seven weeks later I’m standing on the corner where my street meets A1A. Hank and Marge own a double condo on this corner, it faces the open ocean. Charley punched out two large second-story picture windows, the rain poured in, causing extensive water damage. Three weeks later Frances sat over us for three days. Hank had begun repairs, but the building wasn’t ready. Large sections of the roof blew off, one window failed again. More damage. Hank hired a company that specializes in water damage restoration. They had just started when Jeanne came through. Now they have lost just about everything. Hank has had it.

“I’m sixty-seven years old, I worked my fingers to the bone for forty years, and this is my retirement? I can’t take this, we’re selling and going back to Michigan. I can take the cold and the crime, I know how to handle that. This, this is ridiculous.” He shakes his head, looks at the pavement, then out at the ocean. “What was I thinking?”

I leave Hank and walk across A1A to what’s left of our beach. The broad dune has been replaced by an abrupt drop-off, you have to sort of slide down to get to the beach. I walk to the edge of a very calm ocean, and marvel that had I stood here a week ago I would be dead. But the ocean is stunning, gorgeous, warm, calm, inviting.

I live a block from the beach, on what they call the “second dune.” I have to live near the ocean, I can’t stand to be away for long. It mitigates the summer heat, warms us in the winter, gives us invigorating fresh air, and a view to die for. Yet, how do I reconcile this with what has happened in Grenada, Haiti, the Caymans, Cuba, Abaco, Punta Gorda, Pensacola, Ft. Pierce, that unfortunate triangle in Polk County that bore the brunt of three hurricane eyes, and my own community?

You just have to deal with it. You need some luck, some determination, focus, and the ability to take a deep breath during and after the storm. You have to prepare and execute, and you‘d better be insured. Each year on June 1, you pull out your “plan” and review it. You maintain emergency supplies, you run the generator each month, you walk around your house and look for weak points. You talk to your neighbors before and after, you take care of each other.

They tell us that four hurricanes striking Florida in six weeks is a “once in a lifetime event.” I don’t think any of us will forget the Summer of ’04. But I have to tell you, I am looking forward to the Summer of ’05.

Dr. Ralph, online at

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