Aaaah Summer. The season most people look out to. It’s the time for bikinis and ridiculous crash diets. Time for suntaning and fatuous flirting. To many, summertime symbolizes fun, freedom, romance and passion. For us on St. Maarten however, it is the season we dread the most. Summer means Hurricane Season. And being located smack in the hurricane belt is no fun, I can tell you that.
We start holding in our breaths in June and we don’t exhale till the end of November. It is the time that we St. Maarteners and those on other islands in the belt prepare our homes and businesses for possible tropical storms, cloud bursts or hurricanes. We have been “lucky” so far. The last big one was Hurricane Luis that hit the island on September 5th 1995. This category 5 monster caused destruction beyond believe and is still to this day, 20 years later referred to as “The Big One”. Luis was a mean SOB with maximum sustained winds of 140 m/hr. Ask any local who lived though it and they will tell you it was a force to be reckoned with.
Coming from Curaçao I was completely unprepared for hurricanes but 14 years later I consider myself somewhat of an expert. My husband will disagree since I have not lived through Luis a.k.a. The Big One but I’ve had my share of category 1’s and category 2’s. Fact remains though: hurricanes scare the bejeezus out of me. Not to mention the inconvenience they can cause. So, especially for those who haven’t got a clue of what it’s like to live through hurricanes and tropical storms,I have put together a list of reasons why hurricanes SUCK
ONE: Structural Damages
Duh! This one is obvious.The damages caused by hurricanes and tropical storms can be catastrophic depending on the size of the storm. We have all seen news alerts with graphic shots of areas completely destroyed by hurricanes and we all think: “Oh those poor people”. We here in the hurricane belt have a very real risk of becoming “those poor people”. Boats piling up on one another, homes without roofs, supermarkets completely grounded, uprooted trees, cars swept away in floods. Damages caused by hurricanes are real and can be massive.
TWO: Economical setback
This tiny rock that I love so much has one main source of income: Tourism. When a hurricane hits travel plans to the island are halted and depending on the level of destruction those unlucky tourist folks that were visiting when the storm hit, leave en masse. You can imagine that that source of income can then dry up quite fast.
1995’s Luis destroyed supermarkets, homes and St. Maarten’s best 5-star hotel at the time. This little island went from being the St. Barths of the Caribbean to disaster zone in only two days and it took the island years to recover. Financially and emotionally.
THREE: After Storm Clean up
After storm clean up is a B#itch. This is the part I personally hate the most. I have three cats and six dogs, one of which has self esteem issues and keeps attacking the other dogs. I have to separate dogs from cats and psycho pup from everyone else. So now you have 9 animals locked up inside the house for a whole day (or longer) with nowhere to do their business but my beautiful white tiles. I don’t think I need to paint the picture here. Then you have the uprooted trees, broken branches, broken gates, smashed in car windows or windshields, etc. Debris everywhere. And this is in case of a small hurricane.
FOUR: No electricity or water
Imagine above scenario. Now imagine that same scenario with no water coming out of the faucet. Yeah, not pretty. But this is only a small inconvenience when compared to being stuck in a house for a full day or two with no electricity, no water and all windows tightly boarded up. No electricity means no fan and no AC. We’re in the Caribbean here, people. It gets hot like a devil’s ass, especially in the summer months. Another problem: mosquitoes everywhere. You try to sleep or sit quiet for a little while with that buzzing in your ear. My husband experienced Luis first hand and has so many horror stories from that force of nature. He was out of electricity for three months after. Ice and cold drinks were luxury items that only people with generators could afford. Thankfully our utility company has modernized some in recent years.
FIVE: Psychological Impact
Hurricanes are unpredictable and noisy. Forecasters can only predict so much but if that hurricane decides it will divert and hit you straight on, brace yourself and hope for the best. A perfect example is that of last year’s Gonzalo. We were all preparing for a tropical storm as per the forecasts. Gonzalo however had other plans. It grew to a cat 1 hurricane just before hitting us and grew even stronger to a cat 2 while it was on us. The damages were extensive. That unpredictability and not knowing when or if it will hit your island can drive a person insane with worry. Then there are the noises one hears while the storm is wreaking havoc outside. Remember, you’re stuck in a house with every window boarded up. You cannot see what is going on, but you can definitely hear it. Government issued curfews, reports of roofs being ripped off of buildings, worrying if your friends and family are ok and not knowing if this hurricane season will be worse that the last. It’s enough to drive anyone loco. I am basically sick with worry for 6 months out of the year just praying and hoping that we do not get another Luis.
There you have it; a little glimpse into the life of a hurricane survivor. Life in paradise comes at a price. But we keep on smiling, taking it one day at the time. We prepare as best as we can. We purchase items that can make our lives during a storm more bearable. We monitor the weather and check hurricane forecast sites daily. Only three more months to go before we can exhale. In the meantime we keep enjoying the best of island life. Living here is a precious gift most of the time 😉
Laugh, live, love.
*The above post is based on my perception and experience and on stories told to me by others.