A Memory of Maria – Day 0
Maryann asked me why did I start my memory of Maria with the aftermath? The short answer is that the experience is too unbelievable to describe well.
Sufficient to say that being in a long tunnel with a very large speeding freight train full of empty loose barrels banging around is the closest I can come to the sounds. My most vivid memory of Maria, who visited at night, was sound. Howling roaring angry sounds.
Day zero began with clear skies but developing wind strength out of the North West, which is 180 degrees opposite to normal wind direction. We were told that a Category 1 or 2 Hurricane was in our vicinity, so we began preparations.
First priority was taking down our large 260 watt solar panels. They were packed between mattresses and cushions on our spare bed. Down came all pictures and wall hangings, and everything on the veranda deck was stored inside.
We were told that a Category 1 or 2 Hurricane was in our vicinity, so we began preparations.
All our windows do not have hurricane shutters, so the ones that did were secured. Our shutters are jalousie style, and they were closed. A quick walk around the house to ensure that nothing loose was laying around, and we were good to go.
We were more focused on our supply of Eldorado rum and in having copious supplies of ice, than in what was coming our way. After all, how much of a big deal was a near miss by a Cat 1 or 2 going to be. At around 5PM, our son CJ texted us that Maria was a Cat 5 and heading directly for Dominica.
Holy Shit! This could not be happening. Too late to consider alternatives. Misinformation was rampant. We were told that Maria would pass up the Martinique channel, and now we were in her path.
Off our bedroom is a small walled in laundry room. Maryann moved a table and 2 chairs into the room which was the closest to a secure room that we had. We sipped on Eldorado and listened to the sounds, in total darkness. Water rose around our feet. The gaps between doors and floors had been blocked up with towels to keep water out, which meant that the water spraying in sheets through our jalousies had no way to exit. We were helpless, frightened, and there was no way we could tell what was happening around us.
Holy Shit! This could not be happening!
A crescendo of banging noises forewarned us that all was not well with our galvanize sheeting. With flashlight In hand I occasionally examined our ceiling which appeared to be standing up. 11:34pm we had our last texts from our sons, who told us to “hang on, the eye is over you now”. Thereafter all communication was lost. We were alone, and running on instinct.
Maryann was a real trooper and stayed awake, but submitting to exhaustion, I crawled into a wet bed and fell asleep. Shouts from Maryann soon had me fully awake. She had been walking past the French doors to our seaside veranda when Maria exploded them open.
I found Maryann leaning against the French doors, which buffeted and banged her about. Maryann was totally drenched, and hanging on for dear life. A sense of anxiety overwhelmed me at our condition. With hammer, nails, and bed slats, it took us half an hour to nail the doors shut. In the period that I had been asleep, the winds had shifted 180 degrees and were barreling out of the South East.
Securing the French doors was the worst part of the experience. Sheets of sea water mixed with sand, gravel, and leaves, propelled at gusts up to 200 mph, simply took our breath away. Furniture, fridge, etc, was physically lifted and slammed against the far walls. We simply did not consider the French door glass panes shattering and shredding us, until the doors were again secured. What propelled us to take such a risk?
I am a fatalist, and accept things as they happen. Very soon my bed beckoned, and donning a reasonably dry bathrobe, I succumbed to sleep. Not so Maryann, who only joined me in bed at about 3:00 AM, when the winds violence had noticeably diminished. We were both cold, wet, and totally exhausted when we finally succumbed to sleep.
About Cyril Volney:
Cyril Volney is a retired banking professional and a proud Dominican. He is also a family man and comes from a lineage of distinguished individuals. Cyril now lives with his wife of 40+ years at their home in Wesley, Dominica.