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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hurricanes we went through.

Today I decided to write about our time in Jamaica during Hurricane season.For twenty years we lived in Jamaica from late 1989 till 2009. After four Hurricanes and we not getting younger we decided it was time to leave Jamaica and retire.Its funny that our house was called Windblown.
On this picture we still have the shingle roof, but hurricane Ivan took that roof off.

Deadly and dangerous Hurricanes has hit the island of Jamaica numerous times.
Hurricane season runs from the first of June till the end of November. We always said:" June, August and September, October and November and than we hope its over.
It is the curse of Jamaican weather, but satellite weather forecasts usually give enough warnings so that safety measures can be taken. The peak for Hurricanes to strike is August and September. Hurricanes have an Eye of pain and destruction.

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan hit the island. The first Hurricane we would see after we had lived and worked on the island since 1989. And what a Hurricane it was going to be.

September 7, 2004 we received warnings that a Hurricane had formed and the projected path of the hurricane which they had named Ivan would come straight over Jamaica.

Hurricane Ivan promised to be one of the worst Hurricanes ever to struck Jamaica.  The effects of Ivan in Jamaica were among the worst from a tropical cyclone in the island's recorded history. Hurricane Ivan formed as a Cape Verde-type Hurricane (means, an Atlantic Hurricane that develops near the Cape Verde islands off the West Coast of Africa). The largest Hurricanes are the Atlantic tropical cyclones on record have been Cape Verde Hurricanes.
Hurricane Ivan a category 5 Hurricane.

Jamaica was bracing itself. Heavy rains and high winds pound Jamaica as the devastating Hurricane Ivan nears the island. We are bracing ourselves and hoping for the best. Ivan would hit us by midnight full force.Its now September 10.

 This was the first time in fifteen years that we would know what a Hurricane felt like. Monique and Sam our daughter and grandson had come to Jamaica to look after our businesses while we were in Canada for a couple of weeks.She knew all in the insides and outsides of our business so she decided to come and babysit. They had moved  to England a couple of years ago from Jamaica.Upon our return from Canada we heard that a hurricane was forming and it was heading our way. Monique and Sam were suppose to return to England on September 10 and we had hoped to have a couple of nice days together in Jamaica. Needles to say the couple of days we had together ended in working day and night to prepare for the Hurricane with their flight canceled they were stuck in Jamaica as all airports were closed and all flights in and out Jamaica canceled.Sam at the time was 9 years old. He was such a good help.Our son Dan had been able to come out from Canada on one of the last flights entering Jamaica, to help with securing the house and the Dive shops and the boats.He had telephoned us and said he was coming to help us out. I have booked my flight and do not argue with me, I am coming.Well we definitely could use an extra pair of hands a lot of work had to be done. The house boarded up, carpets taken up garden furniture secured. Lounge chairs we threw in the pool as well as some chairs and garden tables. The satellite dish taken down.Hanging baskets and all my orchids had to be placed in a safe place.Monique and I did most of the work at the house while the men went to work at the dive shops.
Dan boarding up the house.

Everything had to go to higher grounds as our dive shops are right on the beach. Tanks, BCD's, fins etc, etc. Then the boats had to be taken out of the water,sailboats,two glass bottom boats, two dive boats and the sand pumping boat, one by one they were taken to a safe place down the road. Ruud and Dan came home every night exhausted. Before they would leave the dive shop they would fill bags of sand which we needed at the house.We have a small river running on the right side of our house, which becomes a roaring river with heavy rainfall. All the water comes down the mountains over the golf course and sometimes floods our backyard. This time we were expecting the worst. Hopefully the sand bags will keep some of it out. We have about ten in front of our front door.Hope the water will not enter the house," except it did".
The eye of Hurricane Ivan.
This image features the eye of Hurricane Ivan at center, partially framed by solar array panels on the International Space Station. One of the strongest hurricanes on record, Ivan was photographed Saturday from an altitude of about 230 miles by Astronaut Edward Mike Fincke, Nasa ISS science officer and flight engineer, aboard the orbital outpost. At the time, Ivan was in the Western Caribbean Sea and reported to have winds of 160 miles per hour.
 This hurricane is going to be horrible. I had been considering to buy myself and Sam my grandson a ticket and fly out to Canada. But all the flights were booked  with fleeing tourists.
After four days of solid work and making preparations we decided it was time for a drink. All we could do now was wait and hope for the best. Monique, Sam and I went to a friends house to stay. They live a little higher up on the mountain, our house is closer to the ocean, so we figured it would be safer at their house. We had picked up a friend of us Diane Fairchild and we left Dan and Ruud at the house. They would take shelter in the little concrete shed beside our house, with two lounge chairs, some blankets and some blue tarp just in case. The lounge chairs were going to be their beds for the night. Needles to say they did not sleep at all.Well I must say they had a good supply of beer at hand, might as well make it a party.
Our friends up the hill, Leroy and Linda had prepared a fish meal for us. They have a stove which runs on propane. Its something to think about for us to do, because ours runs on electricity and we had no electricity already for a day. Outside the winds were picking up and the rain was pounding at the window shutters. The rainwater was seeping through the windows and we were constantly mopping. Like an avalanche hurricane Ivan made its way across the island. Through divine intervention, it shifted a wee bit, dropped back from a category five to a category four hurricane. It battered the house with puffs of gusting winds and torrential rain.I wondered how the men at our house were doing. We had lost contact, our phones had gone dead. I hoped our roof would stay on. Our roof is like a peak roof with wooden shingles.Of course many had blown off and our swimming pool was littered with shingles. All our furniture was soaking wet it was a mess. Two days after the storm, Ruud and Dan finally showed up at our friends house. They had cleaned up as best as they could. They did not wanted me to see the state of the house. They had covered the roof with blue tarps. By doing so Ruud had almost fell off the roof,  the roof had become very slippery. They looked a mess and so tired, but we were grateful we had survived Ivan. Seventeen people were killed in Jamaica and 18.000 people were left homeless as a result of the flood waters and high winds.
Our street Edwards ave. River is overflowing.

Ruud trying to get through. No way!!

The roaring river beside our house.
Edwards ave. Runaway Bay 

Monique and I were up the whole night mopping floors, the water kept coming through the shutters which we had taped with plastic. But that had been a waste of time. It was like a river running through the house. Diane, Leroy and Linda were sleeping right through all the noise from the wind and the branches which were hitting the house. They slept on the north side so they did not hear it as much as we heard it. Our friend Diane drank quite a few rum and coke's or was it vodka??. She was out like a light.When she got up the next morning,she was surprised to step in puddles of water. "Where did this water come from"?. We said:"Where do you think it came from Diane". We had to laugh because she had been totally wasted.She had pretended that she was not scared at all, but she had been scared out of her mind. Monique and I could not believe that they had not heard a thing. The whole night we had been sitting up on our beds, mopping floors trying to keep the water out, even Sam did not sleep. The whole night this sound of an approaching train was heard. We could not possible sleep, just bracing ourselves for the worst. Any minute we thought the wall from the bedroom would crack.We listen to this roaring sound coming up the hill, and suddenly we would hear nothing and than suddenly it would sound again over and over again. It was very scary. Debris was hitting the house, we heard branches braking. We had no idea what was going on outside. It was pitch dark and we only had some candle lights.We were saving our lanterns, which were operated by batteries. Each of us  had one operated battery lantern and Diane's was empty because she had fallen asleep with the lantern on. We were not so amused.At the time we did not know how long we would be without electricity. Days later we laughed about it, but at the time we could not.How glad we were when we saw daylight coming through the shutters.Leroy and Linda were cooking breakfast on their propane operated stove. We very careful opened the front door and peaked outside. It is hard to describe what we saw. All I can say as far as we could see was debris, palm trees were literally taken out the ground and had traveled a couple of meters through the air.Leroy's pool was full of leaves and branches. We were worried sick about Dan and Ruud. How were they, and how had they coped. We had no communication, our cell phones were dead.The roads were impassable.Compared to hurricane Gilbert which had struck Jamaica in 1988 killing dozens of Jamaicans and devastated the island when it struck as a category 3 storm was but a puppy compared to Ivan.
Clean up the road in front of our house

The boats survived. Dan checking them out.

Terrible mudslides, which take everything what's in their way.

Compared to these people we were not bad off.

The strength of nature.
Jamaica awoke to a scene of destruction in the aftermath of Ivan. Now it was cleaning time.The roads were littered with debris, downed trees and dead animals. A horse had been dragged down the river beside our house and had washed on to the beach.It must have carried down the mountains with the rush of water from the hills.Utility poles had crashed to the ground. Heavy rains and unbelievable gusts of winds had taken off many roofs.Many roofs in Jamaica are metal sheets.They had crumpled like opening a can of sardines. It would take a "couple of days", probably weeks before the power would be restored. Luckily we have a generator at the house, so we had been able to keep the fridge going. We had the barbecue going every night.
Dan ready to barbecue after the storm.
Cleaning, cleaning, see the sandbags in the background. 
Dan and Ruud cleaning the pool.

Our supplies.
There was also trouble with the water system, which we were told should not to drink. Luckily we had quite a supply of water stored and had bought a lot of bottled water before Ivan hit.After Ivan had calmed down and the roads were drivable again we said thank you to our friends Leroy and Linda for having us and went down the hill to our own house.Every night we were sitting in the garden under a beautiful clear sky full of twinkling stars. Hard to believe what we had witnessed and been through just a few days ago.How lucky we had been. At the time you do not realize how lucky we had been. Not until you hear what other people had gone through on the other side of the island and what they had lost. All we lost were some shingles a croaked beam on the roof and soaked furniture, nothing too compare with what other people had lost.  Many people had lost everything and so far seventeen people had died and 18.000 people in Jamaica were homeless.  After two weeks Monique and Sam finally were able to book a flight to return to England. Arriving at the airport they were told it was so busy that they had canceled their seats and they had to return back to the house. After another three days of phoning and trying to get two seats on the plane they finally were booked on a flight. But arriving at the airport they were booked on a flight to London while they had to go to Manchester. When she asked if they had a connecting flight to Manchester she was told that that would be her problem. She refused to go on this flight and returned to our house again. Finally British airways called and she and Sam were flying home.They received a big surprise, they got seats in first class for all the inconvenience it had caused them and for all their understanding.They flew home in style.
Arriving home Monique called Sam's school immediately and was surprised by the lack of understanding by the principal.She tried to explain that they had been stuck in Jamaica because of the hurricane. Hurricane or not the principal said:"Sam should have been in school". When Sam came home from school , the teacher had said to him that he had  to realize that his mother could go to jail for keeping him that long out of school if she reported it". What a stupid thing to say to a nine year old who had just experienced a life threatening situation in Jamaica.I cannot believe that people like that become principals. Sam had written a story about the Hurricane so he could read it in front of the class.The hurricane had been a real life lesson for him. He had made drawings from Ivan and had written a story. Can you believe this teacher was not interested.How naive.Sam had learned more from this experience than he would ever learn from lessons taught in school.Because a lesson of life was really taught those days he was in Jamaica during this storm. When you see devastation it makes a real big impact on your life which nobody can teach you. It is only when you are there and literally see it you can understand.You can tell about it, but it is never the same. The anxious moments you are going through, seeing everybody running around you to make sure every thing is secured,sitting up the whole night listening to this roaring sound must have been very scary for him. When we left to go up the hill to stay with our friends he screamed and cried, because he wanted to stay with Ruud his Opa and Dan his uncle. I want to stay with them he cried and cried. I wonder what was going on in his head. For hours he kept saying:"Its not fair, why can't I stay with Opa and Uncle Dan"? How are you explaining to him that it was dangerous. We did not like to scare him more. When you go through a hurricane its when you realize what nature can do, and how helpless you are.We tried to be as cool as we possibly could, after all we had never been in a Hurricane as well, what could we expect, we had no idea.We had been very lucky and not knowing to us more hurricanes would be coming our way.

                       July 2005. Two hurricanes in one month, Dennis and Emily.

In 2005 we were hit twice in one month. It was July 2005 and on July 4 we heard that a tropical storm had hit Grenada and that this storm had strengthened into Tropical storm Dennis.
It was clear that Dennis had the potential to become a major storm. It became quickly a category 1 storm on July 6. The next day it strengthened rapidly to become a category 4 major Hurricane. Thank God Dennis's track became slightly more Northerly, taken it between Jamaica and Haiti by July 7.

This storm again brought torrential rainfall to most of Jamaica. One person was killed. Hurricane Dennis was an unusually strong July major hurricane that left a trail of destruction from the Caribbean Sea to the Northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
road at Flatbridge Jamaica

Flatbridge. Dennis July 7, 2005
Hurricane Dennis caused heavy flooding and landslides in Jamaica.
Air Jamaica had cancelled flights to and from the island. Supermarkets run low on supplies and schools were closed. Hurricane Ivan was still fresh in our minds. We were a little bit better organized this time. Hurricane Ivan last year had taught us a lot and we were a little bit better prepared to respond to these monster storms.Although you never know what is going to happen when monsters like this will hit you dead on. We were lucky again that this monster Dennis threaded its way between Jamaica and Haiti on direct course for poor Cuba on July 7.2005. On the North Coast where we are the storm raise the tide levels by seven to eight feet and generated large and dangerous waves.

Again we were lucky and received not much damage. Except for some water damage and downed trees.
Hurricane Dennis was the fourth named storm of the horrific 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and one of the deadliest storms on record.

We had just put every thing in place again when another storm was brewing. Hurricane Emily was the fifth storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and the third hurricane for Jamaica within a span of one year.
Emily was the first category 5 hurricane of the season; it is the only storm to ever have reached category 5 status in the month of July.
Shortly before 8 AM Saturday July 16,2005 Hurricane Emily started to effect Jamaica.

Oh, no, no......not again!! We just finishing up the mess from Dennis. This can't be true. We have to go through the whole process of securing house and dive shop, boats etc.etc..again!! We just cleaned up and were so happy we came through this hurricane unhurt and now hurricane Emily with only 9 days in between. This can't be true, tell us this is a funny joke. Dennis left Jamaica with four deaths, utility poles downed again, closed roads and now Emily is coming?
Hurricane Emily
The crew abroad the International Space Station captured this stunning image showing the eye of Hurricane Emily.(low center) with the moon rising in the background. Emily was a strengthening category four hurricane Southwest of Jamaica at the time of this image was taken on July 16, 2005.
But again we were "Mercifully spared the worst".

August 2007. Another hurricane. We got a break in 2006. But here we go again. Hurricane Dean.

It's August 2007 and here we go again. A deadly and dangerous Hurricane named Dean has Jamaica in its firing line..
For several days we were watching the computer models and it looked like Jamaica is in the bulls-eye.Oh please let it turn a bit away from us we don't need another hurricane.
Ruud is all by himself in Jamaica at the moment because I (Thea) am in Canada.

This doesn't look good! Oh...boy...
August 16, Hurricane Dean is upgraded from a category 2 to a category 3. Dan has bought a ticket and is flying out to Jamaica on one of the last flights to help his Dad. This is going to be a horri8ble hurricane. I hope Dan and Ruud are going to be safe. During the evening of August 17 as the storm passes through the Lesser Antilles it strengthened into a category 4 hurricane and continued to grow in size and intensity. On August 18, the presence of a double eye wall was noted and that day it became a category 5 hurricane. How glad I am that Dan is with Ruud, and at the same time I am now worried about two persons being in this monster storm. Hope they going to be safe.There is a lot of work to be done again. House now has hurricane shutters so all we have to do close these. Lounge chairs dumped in the pool and the rest of the garden furniture. Most of the work now is the Dive shop and the boats. Ruud called and said that all was okay and not to worry. I received a last call on August 19 at 9 am. They were telling me that the wind had picked up and they started to feel the first brunt of the storm. Hurricane Dean will hit them full force around 11 pm tonight.A direct hit is highly possible. Lets hope for another miracle.Have not heard from Ruud and Dan.Andrea is calling me and wondered if I heard from them. Did not sleep a wink but I think Ruud and Dan did not either. Saw on TV that the hurricane had reached Jamaica. Now we just had to wait. All I knew from the computer models which were tracking Dean that the eye of the monster storm  would hit the South side of Jamaica. That means that Kingston the capital city of Jamaica would be hard hit. Lucky we are on the North Coast

The waves at Club Ambiance going over the pier.
The waves are crashing into shore.

Wondering what we will find back after the storm.
These umbrella's probably won't make it.
Boats in the drive way. Let the storm begin.
Garry and Ken working their *aas off.

All equipment in place ready for the storm.

Okay we are done at the hotels. Boats are safe on dry land every thing secured. A last look at the sea, the waves are getting bigger and the wind is picking up. Time to go to the house and get the house ready.

On Monday Jamaica awoke to scenes of destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean whose outer bands plowed through Southern Parishes and damaging the country's housing stock. The category 4 storm spared Jamaica the full extent of its wrath as its eye passed some 50 miles off the South Coast after threatening a direct hit as it came roaring  towards the island on the weekend.

Sandbags for the front door. Dan looks exhausted.
Dan taking the TV Dish down.

Boarded up again. We now have a new roof. Hopefully it will hold.
Lounge chairs in the pool again. We are almost ready.
Taking a break. We are exhausted.

Our dog Jessie is exhausted too from all that activity.

When I finally heard from Ruud and Dan they told me that everything was okay. The lines from the sand pumping business was the only major damage. About one hundred pipes were scattered all over the ocean floor. The roads as usually after a hurricane were littered with debris and trees and power lines. Other than that they were fine. Working hard to get every thing back in place.
Dan again making a path through debris.
Road in front of our house. Edwards ave.At the end of the road Breezes Hotel.

What is left of a road after the Monster Dean.

Dean smashed power lines down.

Broken sand pump line washed on shore.
Our sand pump pipe lines broken up at Bahia Principe.

Checking out the damage at Bahia Principe.

Sand pump pipeline is scattered all over the place.

Every body is helping cleaning the beach at Club Ambiance.
Dan in the back ground.
destruction at Club Ambiance.
Ruud after the hurricane trying to fill up tanks.
Ruud and Patsy our cat taking a break.

After a hard days work.
What's for dinner???

My legs are a bit scratched, other than that I am okay.
Red stripe is good for any thing. It's the best medicine. Boy, but we are tired. What a day again. We are getting there, but there is so much to do. What a mess the hurricane left.

Doesn't look too bad. But a red stripe is important.

Kenny and Garry in our backyard, Our Poinciana tree got quite hurt by the storm.
A broken branch coming down.
Kenny chopping away.
It's nice to be young.

Roy cleaning the drive way and has pruned the Almond tree.

This is how it looked like after the clean-up.
Within a couple of days the bougainvillea was  back on our gate.

I forgot that we had a twister, which blew the dive shops roof off. It sucked all the BCD's, wetsuits, etc. etc. out of the Dive shop. We collected them from all over the place in the trees and the palm trees. What a mess.
Monique and Wayne are taking stock and look on in disbelieve.

Mural done by Dominique Salm
After the clean up Dominique Salm the daughter of the owner of Club Caribbean Hotel, painted a new mural for us. She is now a famous artist in England and is known for her beautiful animal paintings.

I have some early drawings from her when she was a young girl sitting in the beautiful gardens from the hotel and painting Hummingbirds. You came a long way Dominique, you are doing some unbelievable beautiful paintings.
Two of Dominique's paintings when she was a young girl.

In 2009 I (Thea) decided it was time to retire and leave Jamaica. Being 68 years young I think I deserved it. Ruud stayed on for two more years on and off  selling our dive shop the sand pump business and the house.
We have had a great time in Jamaica and made many many friends. We laughed and cried with the Jamaicans through good times and bad times. This was an experience of a life time.


  1. Times like these just makes you contemplate what part of life we think we can salvage. But with the same tenacity, the thought of task will cross our minds. Because in the end, it all just means that we've got a lot of work ahead, a job to do, as we automatically rebuild. The stress of which we shouldn't have to entirely shoulder. While it's tough to sort out landed property within that morass, it is within our rights and duties to draw which one was ours, and which one was recklessly wronged by forces beyond our grasp.

    Harlan Insurance

  2. Very well said. Its hard enough to fight mother nature and sorting out the aftermath.These forces are tough to deal with and brings with it so much destruction. But their is another monster out there, which is called War. This one is in our grasp, but the nature of this beast is greed. This monster brings even more destruction and sadness. This monster is created by human beings, and this monster does not sort out properties within our rights.We who were in WW2 are still fighting the wrong doings from that monster. We lost every thing and no insurance has ever paid us a dime. This monster was created by human beings and this monster today still brings destruction, sadness, pain, tears, death, confusion, hate. So much waste. I rather be wronged by mother nature, because it seems these forces bring people together and makes them stronger.

  3. Just found this Thea! Thanks for the lovely comments. Such great memories, especially painting that mural! xx

  4. Wow. You have been through a lot of hurricanes in a year. While it may be sad to leave, perhaps it might be best to take your chances elsewhere. If there's any good to all of this, it's that you guys already know what to expect and do in case a hurricane is approaching your residence. Stay safe!

    Sharon Strock @ Storm Chamber