When I was kid I used to love storms. In Puerto Rico the storms were always a fun time. When I was really young it was a time to play cards and board games with my brother. Sometimes I read by candlelight. I remember fondly a time early on – maybe even the first year when I was 7. My dad and my 16 year old brother were fishing with my uncle. My 9 year old brother was staying at my other uncle’s house with my cousins. It was just my mom and I and it started storming. No power. We had two candles. So, as it got dark, we lit one candle and then made another one from the melted wax and some string. Eventually my dad and brother came home with crazy stories of being in the ocean when the storm was coming in and my dad being sea sick. I remember that fondly.
The best part about living in a place where the power goes out frequently is the stories. My mom and dad always had stories about growing up in the 50s in Puerto Rico. As we grew older we would be playing outside with friends in the dark. You see, we didn’t need a hurricane to lose power. Old Don Wilson will tell us scary stories about headless horsemen running around: “You see, this subdivision used to be a sugar plantation… legend has it a headless horseman used to run around and night and watch over the crops…” and he would make the horse sounds and everything. Don Wilson was the best.
I have never seen a hurricane first hand. I lived in Puerto Rico from 1987 until 1998 (give or take a few months) and I never saw an actual hurricane. I remember my brother and I being disappointed when Hugo missed us. We were young and felt let down by the weather report. My mom told us: “No es lo mismo llamar al diablo que verlo venir.” (It’s not the same thing to call the devil than to see him coming.) Hugo missed us just like most storms did. We were in Cabo Rojo, the South/West corner of the Island and they usually make a diagonal line from the South/East to the North/East. Hugo was bad though. Lots of rain and with lots of rain comes landslides. Lots of people died from it. It was one of those things that would be talked about a lot. I imagine like Katrin will be in New Orleans. Everyone will know where they were when, you know?
In 1998 Georges came and did something different. For some odd reason it went from South/East to the middle, and then turned to the South/West. That means it sliced the island in half, with the eye passing through my hometown. My brothers and I all lived in Georgia at that time. So mom and dad lived through the category 3 storm without us. My mom says she was really scared, and my dad fell asleep on the couch, and she got in the pantry and sat on the bottled water through the worse of it. That story sums up my parents relationship pretty well actually. Georges tore up the town. The first time I went back was months after and I was struck at how different everything looked. So many trees were gone or bare. Rumor has it the wasps disappeared after that storm. I don’t have any science to back that story, but that’s what they say.
As I sit here now my family is still going through the hell that is maria. I have no information on how they are doing. Nothing. Last night at around 6 pm we will chatting on the phone. She had my brother and his wife and two kids there. My brother’s mother in law too. It’s a party. They ate dinner early out of fear of losing power. Everything was still calm. Sometime last night the power went out. I called this morning at 8 am and the phone was out. I have tried all day with no luck. We here the cell towers came down. We here power is out in 100% of the island. We here all communication is down. The Weather Channel is the most terrifying thing you will ever see in circumstances such as this.
I checked wether.com for an update on the winds. This I got for my home town:
Cabo Rojo, PR (00623) Hourly Weather
6:22 pm AST
Expect occasional rain to continue for the next several hours.
TIME DESCRIPTION TEMP FEELS PRECIP HUMIDITY WIND
6:30 PM Squalls 80° 88° 100% 91% SW 116 mph
12:00 AM Squalls 81° 90° 100% 85% SSW 81 mph
6:00 AM Squalls 80° 88° 100% 89% SSW 75 mph
12:00 PM Squalls 83° 94° 100% 89% S 63 mph
Can you imagine how scary this is? You watch the footage of what this storm has been doing to the rest of the Caribbean and how San Juan looks right now. You know they have been without phones or power since before 8 am this morning and this nightmare will continue for this long?! I can hardly stand it. I am really grateful my daughters are too young to be aware of what is happening. My oldest niece is in Florida and is 28 years old and a mess right now.
We do not know how long it will be before we hear something. I just checked Facebook and saw my cousin Ivonne marked herself “Safe” in San Juan. That is 1 family member… My dear friend Janice has a flooded house but was able to get on Whatsapp and tell me she and her family are alive and well this afternoon. That’s 1 friend. The anxiety is overwhelming.
I want to thank everyone for the prayers, the messages, the texts, the phone calls. Your concern means a lot to me. As soon as I know something I will share, I promise. I will keep checking facebook. I will keep dialing the numbers and using the apps in hopes of some form of communication. Tonight, I will pray. Tonight I will cry. I will try to lose myself in some TV program and some wine, and tomorrow I will do it all over again.
When I was kid I used to love storms…