It’s exactly three months since Hurricane Irma slammed the Virgin Islands. I’ve had a short post updating everyone on how I was faring. Well, a whole lot has changed since then.
Irma came, I lost my apartment, my office got pounded, I left the Virgin Islands, returned to Nigeria, got married to the Nigerian Husband and we are expecting a set of twins. A lot has happened.
Just kidding, some of those things did happened but not all. Let me explain.
Hurricane Irma is among the top two most traumatic events of my life. The other one is being in the midst of a religious/ethnic crisis in Jos- Nigeria in 2001.
To be honest, I didn’t take this storm as serious as I should have taken it when it was being forecasted; I thought it would be just like another hurricane that passes over the Virgin Islands and all we ever experience is rain and some breeze. This one came with quite a lot of breeze and very little rain but that was all it took for my life to be turned upside down.
Before the storm, my friends and family were worried about me. “Phhh, what do they know? They’re scared for nothing. Hurricanes always skip the Virgin Islands.” How wrong was I? They all warned me to go to a shelter and not be at home. I assured them I would go to a shelter, but I lied. All along, I was going to stay home alone during the storm, after all, I had a strong deck outside my apartment, plus the windows are strong enough, they shouldn’t break.
I consoled myself with that false hope in my surrounding until a few hours before the hurricane arrive, I reached out to my editor to see if he left his house for a shelter as he had announced earlier in the office. When I got him, he told me he was safe, but became worried about my safety and how fortified my apartment may or may not have been.
It took my editor to convince me to leave my house. Already, I had packed an emergency bag a day before, just in case I had to go camp out at someone’s place after the hurricane had passed. After speaking with my editor at about 3 a.m., I sent my neighbour a message. They had hurricane shutters and I figured that should be enough.
I thank God my editor insisted on me leaving my apartment.
As early as 7 a.m., I picked up my emergency bag, which had change of clothes, some canned milk, bread and cereal, toiletries and medication, and headed to my neighbours’ place. The mother and daughter pair welcomed me in and I quickly settled on the couch.
Irma finally arrived at around 9 a.m., September 6. At first it was just rain and wind. Then it was just a lot of wind, then extreme wind for at least two hours. Then the house began to vibrate, the dishes and glasses in the kitchen were rattling. Then it was extremely windy, you could hear some sounds on the roof. We weren’t quite sure what was going on. The wind was violently pulling out the hurricane shutters. Thankfully. the shutters covered the glass, so we couldn’t see what was happening outside. That would have been another layer of trauma added.
All I could do was pray and hope for the best. At some point, I began creating a plan of where I might run to should the roof go off. Eventually, all three of us decided it was time to hunker down in the bathroom – the safest place in the house, according to the Department of Disaster Management. We stayed there for about 45 minutes, then the eye arrived.
I always heard about the eye/centre of a hurricane but I never for one day imagined I’d be in one. No words can adequately described being in the eye of a hurricane, a Category 5 hurricane at that.
It was eery, the air was dense and air pressure low. It was also misty and strangely calm.
My neighbour, the mother, being a hurricane veteran herself, knew that was the eye. The eye is without wind and calm, we rushed out to see what is was like outside and see how we could secure the house for the second half.
During the eye, I looked out and saw the hills disembowelled (a description of the island in a BBC article as part of an extensive coverage of the disaster.) Not only did the hills look like an atomic bomb swept through them, the once upon a time lush and green hills were brown and dented with pieces of white galvanize, which had all been ripped off people’s roofs.
Thankfully, my neighbours’ house didn’t suffer any damage, yet. My own apartment building wasn’t that lucky. Parts of the roof was already off, and so was a section of the deck. My landlord came over to my neighbours’ place and we devised a plan on how to seat out the second half of that storm. We were divided at some point, but right before the angry wind began again, we decided to take shelter in the basement of the neighbours’ house. All four of us were in the living area of this one bedroom apartment until the wind pelted a stone through the window of the basement. Automatically, that meant we had to take cover in the bathroom, which we did. We stayed in the bathroom for about three and a half hours. Within that time, rained water entered the room and sipped into the bathroom, we basically stood in water for most of the time.
Hurricane Irma was like an angry old lady who lives in a seniors home. The staff mistakenly didn’t give her evening jello, so she decided everyone had to feel her wrath. No kidding.
After our time at the bathroom, we came out to the living area because the wind had subsided quite a bit and we thought it would be safe to be in the living area with the broken glass. We stayed there for some time before we looked out and saw my landlord’s dog outside. We decided to open the door during a lull to allow the dog in. Well, a lull did come, but as soon as we opened the door, the wind slammed it hard against the wall, almost taking it off the hinges. We damaged the door plus we didn’t get the dog in. For the next hour and a half or maybe more, my neighbour and I – the two abled ones – took turns hold on to the door.
At around 7 p.m. we decided to crawl upstairs as the wind wasn’t as “bad” anymore. We got upstairs, it was dark because electricity had been cut off more than 18 hours prior.
When we got upstairs, we tried to eat some food, I couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t gather the strength to eat anything even though I was tired and hungry.
We got dressed for bed not knowing what would happen; the wind was still howling and fragments of the roof were banging into each other. Sleep wasn’t something I would get easily.
Eventually, I tried to convince myself that it was okay to sleep. Then came the rain and also water pouring into the house like a waterfall.
I’ll have to write another blog post.