#AnguillaStrong, Weathering the Storm – Hurricane Irma 2017
Hurricanes are no strangers to the Caribbean but, Hurricane Irma 2017 was not your usual hurricane! There are annual occurrences of these natural disasters usually within the Atlantic Hurricane Season – June 1st to November 30th. However, the most active period of the season begins closer to the end of August until the end of the season.
Notably, the first week in September is of historical significance in Anguilla as catastrophic hurricanes like Donna in 1960, Luis in 1995 and now Irma in 2017 wreaked havoc on the island. For those who could recount the unforgettable experiences from Hurricane Donna or Hurricane Luis, or both have agreed that the powerful and destructive nature of Hurricane Irma far surpassed that of the aforementioned and the damage done was extensive.
“Hurricane Irma?! She betta behave herself!!”
Already assigned human names for clarity when issuing weather warnings, the hurricanes are further personified in the form of comedies and other scenarios to describe their behaviour or forecasted behaviour. Yes, humour lightens the tension in times of distress and panic but natural disasters are to be taken seriously.
Shelves empty… Lines long… Rushing here, rushing there! Last minute preparations for Hurricane Irma were in order.
Frantically running around was something that the majority of Anguillians were doing as they prepared for Irma. One can only imagine how tense the traffic was and how dangerous being on the road became especially after the stoplights were taken down.
The demand for plywood and other building supplies to secure properties and possessions greatly exceeded the supply – most hardware stores ran out of stock within hours.
The lines at the gas stations were so long that the cars spilled out on to the main road and added further difficulty manoeuvring through the already hectic traffic. And the wait?! It was worth it in the end.
Speed walking is what you had to do! Through the aisles of the supermarket, persons moved swiftly to stock up on the necessities before they finished to ensure that they had sufficient food supplies not only to make it through the storm but enough to last for some time after.
There was and is no such thing as too prepared!
The stories of THE Hurricane Irma Experience might vary a bit but there are a few things for certain: it was a terrifying experience, water got into every building and it taught us life lessons and reinforced those already taught!
Just after 3am, the weather conditions changed noticeably. From a lulling sound to a whistling wind which meant only one thing – “SHE almost here!”. Then, minutes to 6am, September 6th, 2017, Irma made landfall in Anguilla. The dark, cloudy skies were brightened by the flash of lightning but the thunder was rendered ‘barely heard’ by the violent, howling winds produced by Irma.
Any loose objects outdoors became missiles bound to cause some form of damage or destruction. Even shutters that were “secure”, she grabbed with full determination with her 185 mph winds. She took away roofs, crumbled walls and cracked windows. Some had to hold on to their doors for dear life and many had to “sop” up water from the floors that rushed in when the winds picked up and pushed the rainwater inside.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, babies and young children were able to sleep soundly straight through Hurricane Irma but they would not have the opportunity, in years to come, to say that they witnessed a Category 5 like those who were awake – whether because of anxiety or mere curiosity or fighting to secure their lives and livelihoods.
To add some positivity in the midst of fear and anxiety, the newsfeeds of many Anguillians, residents of Anguilla and their friends were flooded by the trending hashtags, #AnguillaStrong and #CaribbeanStrong. These hashtags underlined; leading up to, during and after the passing of Hurricane Irma; the noteworthy resilience and unity, especially in the time of distress, of Caribbean people – a real-life illustration of the motto of Anguilla, “Unity, Strength and Endurance”, amongst other things.
Aya looka wuk! The Aftermath!
Roofs blown off… Galvanize wrapped around trees… Houses without windows and/or doors… Trees uprooted… Poles broken, leaning or lying on the ground… Cars without windshields… Containers turned over… Landmarks destroyed… are just some of the harrowing sights after Hurricane Irma left.
To see Anguilla go from a luscious green isle with preserved historical buildings to a landscape that was decorated with debris was heartbreaking! Though saddened by the loss of property and possessions and damage sustained, Anguillians remained resilient and quickly began devising ways of how to recover from the horrific disaster.
Fuelled by the thankfulness for life and the love of the island, brings to mind the famous Anguillian anthem, “We’re Out to Build A New Anguilla” – something that is resonating in the thoughts and actions of many Anguillians and lovers of Anguilla! Listen to Deanna Mussington’s rendition of this iconic song!
The clusters of bright yellow petals from the “wild onions”/”lilies” (only occur after heavy rains) sprung up throughout the island after the Hurricane are a sign of hope and bring back ‘colour’ to the devastated, but forever beautiful, Anguilla.
Thank you to everyone who has made, and will be making, contributions to aid in the rebuilding and recovery of our beloved island! Thank you all for the outpouring support and words of encouragement!
See Part 2 for more on the Hurricane Irma Experience!