How we survived a category 5 hurricane and how you helped too
3 Adults, 3 Kids, 2 Cats, 1 Dog and a Hedgehog, huddled in a room.
On the day of September 6th which started out as a somewhat partially sunny day, later changed our lives forever with the arrival of Hurricane Irma. There has been tons of press about the hurricane, where it went, what it did in general, but here’s one story out of 99 thousand other similar exeriences from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. This is probably written as more of a therapeutic release of stress and emotion for me, but valid in every aspect, should you decide to read further, maybe it will help you survive a category 5 hurricane yourself one day. Although I would not wish this experience on anyone I know, so if you have the chance, run and don’t look back.
“The wind gusts we’re so strong, they snapped trees.”
AS THE EYE APPROACHED — The winds got stronger and stronger from about 10am to 11:30am, we started to build a mini fort in the middle of our house, which was the kitchen and entry way leading to the front door. We slid a massive dresser blocking the front door, making sure that both edges of the dresser covered past the door frame, so there was no chance of flying out the front. Next we lined up sofas to sit on in the middle with snacks and drinks, while also propped up mattresses held in place by couches on all open sides protected us from flying debris. We we’re good, winds didn’t seem so bad, mood was good, only the power was out, but that was short lived.
MYTH — People we’re saying, “Oh, those places are made like cardboad or popsicle sticks, of course they blew apart.” WRONG, most of these homes were made with thick cement walls reinforced with rebar, and as you can see in the pictures, the beams that were thrown around “like straws”, were large 6″x 6″ x 72″ and larger beams.
Our other patio door had a piece of 4″ x 4″ tile wedged through it’s 2.5 inch thick wood, splintered on the inside as if it was thrown like a ninja shuriken at about 200mph! When it’s CAT 5, all bets are off.
“It looked like Tim Burton turned St. Thomas into Nightmare Before Xmas.”
“The walls crumbled like crackers.”
By 12 noon, the strong gusts turned to continuous strong winds with insanely “freight train loud”, heavy gusts that you could feel pressure in your chest, ears plugging up and popping, and the walls & ground shaking. It was at this moment, our little fort we built in the kitchen would no longer suffice as a safe place. Water started dripping from the second floor everywhere in the ceiling corners. We quickly all moved into our boys back/side bedroom, the only room with a window that faced away from the surging winds, and shut the door.
Not even 5 minutes went by when there were, massive crashes of glass, banging of metal, cracking of wood sounds, and a gush of wind pushing it’s way through the cracks of the door. My wife and I placed our feet at the base of the door, and started wedging children’s book covers into the door frame, to keep the door from shaking loose. The top corner of the 2.5″ thick door was bending in at the corner somewhat like the way you can bend a playing card. We needed to do something else, and we did. We took both of our boys bed frames and wedged them between the back wall, and the bedroom door, stuffing boxes and pillows in between them to make an impenetrable lock on the door. It kept the door from shaking, but not bending, however we we’re able to wait the rest of the hurricane out that way. For the next 30 minutes, which felt like a day, we all just waited and waded in 5 inches of water on the ground. We could see more and more lumber, roof pieces, trees and whatever else, flying by. Some of it was surreal because the storm window was glazed over from water, leaves and wind, looking a bit like a stained glass effect, but moving.
Yup, that’s our roof.
We waited in that room until almost 4, the winds we’re dying down, but the gusts remained very strong, and at this point, it didn’t take much to throw debris around banging things up some more.
By 5pm we we’re back out in the living room, which didn’t look too bad, but there was water everywhere on the floor and couches, water still dripping down from the first floor as well, which lasted all night. The front bedroom, destroyed, closet doors in tact, but inside those closet doors, everything was wet, and leaves stuck to everything. I don’t know how? There we’re also many things from outside, now thrown about inside, I still don’t know how, except it all definitely came in through the front windows.
We couldn’t really tell what happened, or how bad the damage was until the next day.
Things we had
Cases & Cases of Water
Spaghetti & Sauce
Rum & Coke
Things we needed
Dry Clothes double bagged
We spent the next few days exhausted and surviving, just like everyone else on the island. A bitter sweet next day, we celebrated Zayne’s 4th birthday in style with envelope hats, and a birthday cake cooked on the grill!
We had pretty much lost everything at this point, all of our waterlogged stuff was already smelling mildew and most everything had to be tossed, this included clothes, couches, mattresses, kids stuffed toys, and anything else that cannot survive being wet.
We we’re extremely lucky though, we we’re picked up by a friend of our neighbor, stayed with them for a few days, able to shower, then finally able to hitch a ride from St. Thomas to St. Croix. The St. Thomas airport was shut down, but as long as your private plane was bringing in donated supplies & goods, you could hop on the plane back, given that you know who chartered the plane in the first place. At this point (before Hurricane Maria) St. Croix wasn’t hit too hard, we even ordered pizza, survivor’s guilt was setting in.
This is how you have helped us out! Plane tickets out, clothes for us and the kids, toys for our boys, they were such good troopers the whole time! Really puts things into perspective, what you think you need, and what you really need.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.