As I am sitting here in my front room all hunkered down and ready for Hurricane Earl, I thought that I would take this opportunity to write a blog before Earl causes my internet connection to be taken away.
Just a few hours before the first real affects of Earl are going to be felt in Saint Martin, and we are all ready. Hurricane preparation doesn’t just start when all of a sudden we are on Hurricane Watch, it starts months ago… it starts first with a plan. This plan gets refined through experience, time and the actual situation.
The story of Hurricane Earl started about 5 days ago when we looked at the National Hurricane Center’s website, run by NOAA, and there was a large area circled in yellow with yellow lines through it on the map of the Atlantic close to the Cape Verde Islands. We check this every day from about June 1st to December 31st. The colored areas indicate areas that are predicted to become Tropical Storms. If it is colored yellow then there is less than 30% chance of Tropical Storm formation, then as the percentage increases above 30% the color changes to orange, and then if is is 50 % or more the color changes to… you guessed it, the ominous red. We hate the red areas on the nhc website. We prefer orange or yellow, or the words “There are no tropical cyclones at this time” which is the best.
So, Chris took one look at the yellow patch and said “we better keep a close eye on this one.” Then, over the next couple of days we watched the patch turn to orange and then red. Then it gets a name, which I love. I love that we name them, we give them personalities and refer to them as “he” or “she.” I also love that over the years the names are getting more and more multi-cultural, have you noticed this? So now, instead of Sarah, Jim and Tom, we get Omar, Isaias, Ernesto and Joaquin. So, lets be clear, I love the fact that we name tropical storms and hurricanes, but I don’t love the actual tropical storms and hurricanes themselves.
So, back to the preparation… first thing is the plan, then the gathering of supplies. Chris and I did our hurricane shopping early normal purchase would be: batteries for flashlights, candles, water, water, water, tarpaulin, gas in the car, dog food for lil Rog, cat food for Max, and food for about 3 days worth. Oh, it is also really important not to forget the copious amounts of alcohol needed to pass away the time and stress if the power and cable go out!
Then, we needed to get the boats out of the water. We had originally thought that we would be able to go out this morning, but alas, we decided better safe than sorry, and canceled this mornings trip. As you know from previous posts, I really hate to cancel a days diving… but with a hurricane imminent we decided to get the boats out of the water in the morning. It isn’t just to get the boats out of the water before the waves and the wind, it is to get the boats out of the water before everybody else. If everyone in Saint Martin decides to take their boats out of the water at the same time, then you can imagine the chaos.
After securing the boats (which is a lot more stressful and difficult then I could possibly put into words) the shop needed to be prepared. We do this by lifting everything up about 2 feet off of the floor, wrapping all electrics (iMac, printer, phone etc) in garbage bags and securing the sign outside. Then… we have to secure everything at our house.
It all doesn’t seem that intensive, but just when you need to be in top form, someone (Stu) will slice his hand on a rope, or someone else (Stu) will step on something really sharp, or someone else (Stu) will bang his head on a rafter, and everything is 10 times more difficult!
Once we are all secure and happy in the house we are constantly checking websites for updates. We like to look at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ and also www.stormpulse.com. We like to refresh these pages about every 5 minutes, even though we know that they only get updates themselves every three hours.
Then Stu came over, and then Mark and Jenn the two divemaster interns that have been here all year, although we do like to refer to all three of them as really good friends. So, now here we are.
Chris and I went through Hurricane Omar in 2008 together, so we are less anxious then the first time. But for Stu, Mark and Jenn and lil’ Rog, it is their first Hurricane, so they don’t know exactly what to expect, and that can be a little scary. We do… we know to expect a really awesome night with friends. We are all hunkered down together, safe inside our house with good food, good drinks, some scared pets (max and lil Rog) and 100 mph winds outside!
So, right now Earl is approaching. Here is a snapshot from Stormpulse as of 8 PM on Sunday night.
I will update you tomorrow, if we have internet to let everyone know that we are okay and what the actual extent of Earl turned out to be. Thanks for all of your safe wishes that we have already received, they mean a lot.
When I get stressed, I just think of the two dives that I had yesterday morning, in calm water that was like a mill pond due to no wind. Living in the Caribbean does have it’s stressful hurricane’s coming through, but with days like yesterday, it is totally worth it.
(Sally wrote this blog 🙂 )
PS Love you dad, thanks for all your calls and skypes.