Bad Hurricane Beryl

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Fallen trees show the direction of winds during the passage of Hurricane Beryl in Negril, Jamaica. – Photo by Paula Lindo

IN Trinidad, we joke and say God is a Trini, because our proximity to South America means that most major hurricanes pass us by.

Hurricane Beryl was no different. It passed north of us and while there was some rain, the effects quickly dissipated.

Normally, I would have been in Trinidad, doing my best to prepare for the hurricane, working on hurricane stories, and worrying about my family in Jamaica. This time was different as I’d flown to Jamaica to visit with my family and was scheduled to fly back at the end of the week after Beryl had passed.

Motorists drive past a fallen light pole on Norman Manley Boulevard, Negril, Jamaica, after the passage of Hurricane Beryl. – Photo by Paula Lindo

I was staying with my brother Allan, sister-in-law Nelka and their two girls, ten year old Bethany and Hope, three, in a housing scheme in Negril, Westmoreland. Thankfully we were inland, so didn’t have to worry about storm surge, although the nearest beach was no more than five minutes drive away.

Nelka had bought groceries a couple days ago so the fridge was fully stocked, and we had bought snacks, which we’re still eating two days later.

On Monday, the Prime Minister had declared the whole country a disaster area and said there would be a nationwide curfew from 6 am to 6 pm to prevent criminality. He also said when the storm hit, the electricity and water lines would be shut down to prevent fires and water wastage from burst pipes.

So we had time to buy supplies, snacks for the kids, water and bottled water, and to fill bottles, buckets and pans with water.

The anticipation was some of the worst, but you had to just sit tight and wait because there wasn’t anything you could do.

Workmen look on as a tractor clears debris near Norman Manley Boulevard, Negril, Jamaica. – Photo by Paula Lindo

We’d cracked the windows and opened the doors so the breeze could find its way through the house without creating a vacuum and breaking the few glass windows, the roof was concrete, so hopefully it wouldn’t be lifted off although the wooden structure above it might, and hopefully any water coming into the yard would run off the slight slope past the house.

Initially, the reports were that we would start feeling the effects of the hurricane by Tuesday evening. Nelka and I made sure we knew where the candles were and went to bed. I kept an ear open but next thing I knew it was morning. Because we were at the westernmost tip of the island, we didn’t expect it to hit us right away and I told Nelka I was glad it hadn’t hit in the night

On Wednesday morning it struck me that even as we were preparing for a natural disaster, life had to go on. Since we knew at some point we’d be without light and water, we’d been charging our devices, especially the children’s tablets, and collecting water, and then my sister-in-law cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the three of us, because we’d have to eat, storm or not.

Fallen trees brought down a billboard on the Norman Manley Boulevard in Negril, Jamaica. – Photo by Paula Lindo

We didn’t start to feel the effects until around 3 pm, when the heavy winds started to blow. It took another hour for the lights and water to go after the winds started affecting the wires, and data went around 7 pm. The intensity grew and grew, until you could see trees blowing and bending and leaves started blowing through the air like snow in a blizzard like you’d see on TV.

There wasn’t much we could do than wonder how much longer it would last and how much stronger it could get.

Our next door neighbour’s roof lost a couple pieces of zinc and we could see and hear the zinc on another house flapping all night. It was nerve-wracking wondering if the breeze would tear off someone’s roof and be strong enough to send it through the burglar-proofing, or if a nearby tree would be uprooted and land on the roof.

The children were mostly unfazed, and our main concern was keeping them occupied until they fell asleep.

The breeze blew for hours and hours, but thankfully there was very little rain until later in the evening after it got dark. That was another worry, because even though the house was on a slope and my brother said it had only ever come up to the verandah, I wondered if Beryl would break that record too.

There’s nothing like lying in bed by candlelight worrying about what could happen when you can’t see. Thankfully the rain stopped around 3 am and we were able to get a couple hours sleep before starting clean-up.

This consisted mostly of mopping the house, letting out the dog, raking up leaves, and collecting more water to replace what we’d used. We were lucky enough that one storage tank remained, so we had some access to water. We had to spray surfaces with bleach because flies were everywhere.

A woman fills a bucket with water in Negril, Jamaica, the day after the passage of Hurrican Beryl. – Photo by Paula Lindo

Now, we had to deal with the aftermath and the questions that came with it.

When will the lights come back? Will the tank water last long enough for water to come back? How quickly can we cook the food in the freezer before it spoils? When will the roads be cleared? When will communication services come back? Digicel, the network I was using, came back on Friday around 3 pm. We’re still waiting on the lights and water, and there’s no guarantee when that will happen.

The heat the night after was like I’d never felt. Thick, oppressive , like a thick wet blanket sitting on your skin. We all had trouble sleeping until after midnight, eventually sleeping on the floor because it was cooler.

A friend told us in her area the breeze was bending the coconut trees, and bringing them back up, and some of them didn’t come back, mango trees, breadfruit trees went. One neighbour’s roof was lifting until something fell on it and it stopped lifting off. She said a woman went into the street during the storm to rescue cable wires, a tree fell on her, and then she got cut in two by the wires. The neighbourhood consensus was that she was an idiot.

My three-year-old niece doesn’t quite understand the concept of electricity, and how that’s connected to the internet, so I had to tell her the hurricane took them.

“There’s no internet or electricity Hope.”

“But I want to use my tablet!”

“You can’t go on the internet right now so you can’t use your tablet”

“Why no internet?”

“Because there’s no electricity.”

“Why not?”

“Because the hurricane took them.”

“Bad hurricane!”

I guess that sums it all up.