Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hurricane Bill Moving in on St. Thomas

This is hurricane season; words that have a special meaning to those living in an area of the world prone to these destructive storms.

I am a survivor of Hurricane Marilyn, which struck the Virgin Islands, and most particularly St. Thomas in 1995. If it is true that adversity builds character, then I am a towering mass of character.

Marilyn hit on September 15, 1995, lasted about 15 hours and was the worst hurricane in Virgin Islands recorded history. Over 95 percent of structures on the island were damaged or totally destroyed. Recovery took months and in some cases, years.

Hurricane Marilyn at its Height

It was three months before the island had electricity in some areas, one year before telephone service was restored to all parts of the island (I was one of those with no phone service for a full year), and years before homes, businesses and public buildings were restored.

Destructive Aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn

I could expound on what it was like to have to wait until the generator was turned on each day from 6pm until 9pm to flush the toilet, wash dishes, take a bath, etc., but, you don't want to hear about that. Let's just say, both the hurricane and the aftermath are experiences that I'll never forget.

Hurricane Bill is currently approaching the Virgin Islands and has been predicted to be a Category 2 storm that will possibly reach St. Thomas on the 19th or 20th.

I don't want to mention this, but I feel I must: Hurricane Marilyn was predicted to be a Category 1 (little more than a tropical storm). Now that's what it was when it hit St. Croix (about 45 miles from St. Thomas), that fateful evening. But, when it left St. Croix and crossed the ocean it gathered in strength and ferocity. By the time it arrived in St. Thomas, it was another story altogether.

Afterward, the National Weather Service admitted that the storm strengthened possibly to a Category 3, and maybe a 4. Let me say that for those who suffered through those 15 hours, it was obvious, we were in a storm that was at the least a Category 4 and at the most, a 5.

I am praying that this storm either disspates, or really will be no more than a Category 1.

An approaching hurricane is a frightening reality, especially when it is realized that the only possible defense is leaving the area, or if that is impossible, making the necessary preparations.
The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.