Still Waiting on Maria
At 1:00 PM on Monday 18 September, 2017, many people had declared themselves ‘prepared’ for Hurricane Maria, now a Category 3 storm. Forecasts for the passage of the eye put it between Dominica and Martinique and the storm was approximately 8 hours away from us at that time.
I remember that Facebook friends, were still hopeful, many were sharing memes and photos (see below), and others were sharing satellite images and forecast predictions of the storm. I remember seeing one screenshot of a status update which read, “Dominica, I decree and declare that Hurricane Maria will not touch you, in Jesus name, AMEN.”
Then came the 5:00 PM weather advisory:
“At 500 PM, the eye of Hurricane Maria was located by satellite imagery and data from the French radar on Martinique near latitude 15.1 North, longitude 60.7 West. Maria is moving
toward the west-northwest near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday.
On the forecast track, the center of Maria will move near Dominica and the adjacent
Leeward Islands during the next few hours, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight and Tuesday, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 130 mph (215 km/h) with higher gusts. Maria is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 to 36 hours, and Maria
is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane during the next couple of days.”
All joking around ceased at that time. Within a half hour, many people I’d been in communication with made last minute transitions to more durable homes or shelters. Others started contemplating moving. About an hour after the announcement, electricity was cut to what seemed like most of the island. Digiplay also went offline and social media chatter out of Dominica decreased significantly.
Here She Comes
I will spare you all the details about our encounter with Hurricane Maria. Suffice it to say that everyone’s experience was different, but every story you hear about the storm will be very similar.
The very early forecast that said we should start feeling hurricane force effects by 8:00 PM was spot on. The wind and rain came at 8:00 PM and raged on for more than 6 hours. After scrambling to tame the water that seemed to be pouring in through our closed windows, one window burst open (after being hit by an unknown projectile) and we surrendered to the bathroom for the remaining hours.
We heard our roof depart. We heard rafters come crashing down. We even heard when our front door entrance (a heavy double door) shatter into pieves. We prayed that the ceiling above us stayed intact, and though it lifted a few inches during the stronger gusts and water seeped through its seams, the ceiling stay together and provided us shelter.
By 2:00 AM on Tuesday morning, we burst through the bathroom door and I took a few photos with my ailing smartphone.
Accessing the outdoors was impossible at that time due to the fallen rafters, debris and lack of light. We retreated to the bathroom just in time, as the wind and rain picked back up and raged on for a few more hours.
When the sun finally rose, we fought our way through the rubble, exited our now destroyed home and stared at the destruction around us. The video above shows some of what I captured at that time.