Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene

It has been a few days since Tropical Storm Irene became Hurricane Irene. We live on St Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Irene formed right over our heads. All through Sunday night we sat in a darkened house while her 50 mph winds and horizontal rain beat a steady hard bass rhythm on our tin roof overhead. And even though she didn't do more than drop several inches of rainwater and mow down some branches and drop a few trees, I am exhausted.

A lot of work goes into being prepared for a hurricane or even a tropical storm, and no matter how much work you do, there will always be something you forgot to do. You have to make sure there is enough food to eat, drinking water and non potable water to flush the toilet when the current (the Crucian word for electricity) goes out. And it will go out. You have to make sure all those chores you need electricity for are completed: clothes washed, dishes washed, (buy paper plates) house clean enough so you don't trip on things stumbling around in the dark, phones, computers, cameras, and game systems all need to be charged. And don't forget to have candles and flashlights in a ready place, as well as a deck of cards or a favorite family board game to pass the time and distract you from the storm outside. A goodly supply of batteries is a must as well.

We found that when the current went out at our house, we had to replace a lot of batteries by candlelight and didn't have enough batteries for our emergency radio. Get gas for your car, gas for your generator and extra cash from the bank - just in case. Remember that ATMs and gas pumps run on electricity, too. And people with pets have as much work to do keeping them comfortable, safe and calm during a big storm.

By the time you think you are finished running errands and prepping the house, car and yard -bringing in all the plants and outdoor furniture, securing trash barrels - the most difficult part begins: the waiting.

Waiting for a potential disaster consumes a lot of energy. Although it makes you feel anxious, it is exciting in a weird way, much like waiting to go to the most popular kid's birthday party, but knowing that raging out of control bully will also be at the party. And he will punch you in the arm. Several times. Hard. He'll probably pants you as well.

With Tropical Storm Irene, the sounds of the storm when it hit full on were frightening. The wind screeched through cracks in the walls and between the spaces in the windows. The rain pummeled without letting up. Tree branches crackled. And it was more intense because everything was so dark.

Tropical Storm Irene was a doozy. And when she passed over us, she was only a lowly tropical storm.

Now, she is a cat 2 hurricane (expected to be cat 3 by 8 a.m. Friday) moving towards North Carolina and other populated Eastern cities. I can't imagine what she will do with even more energy, as she was so angry and intense last week before she grew up.

I would urge anyone in her path to take her seriously. Be safe rather than sorry. Our web video on The Source has had over 45, 000 hits and if you watched it, it can't convey the intensity of what we really felt that night. What the video does show is how quickly it rolled in: Now you don't see her, now you do.

Please, be prepared. Be smart. If you are in her path, get out. If Irene was a maniac as a lowly tropical storm, she is a Super Bitch as a hurricane.

(Written by Tori Baur, posted by John)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Picture Perfect

Don't know if you can make out the sign in the background. It's the name of the restaurant where this palm tree fell.

Coconuts on the Beach

Just seemed an apt place for a palm tree to have been blown down during Tropical Storm Irene.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

And here comes Irene

(UPDATE – An hour later, and Irene is now a hurricane. Just so you know.)

Alex came to visit this week, and she'll be here until the start of September and we couldn't be happier about it, she's been gone for a year.

BUT – there's an unwelcome stranger knocking on the door, and I'm not talking about the guy who traveled to the island to see Millie. Alex got here just in time for the season's first close approach of a tropical storm.

Irene was upgraded to a tropical storm yesterday and was supposed to pass about 120 miles south of here. Which would have been quite close enough, since tropical storm-force winds extend out about 150 miles. But she wobbled during the night, and that brought her lurching right onto our doorstep so to speak. At this point they're calling for a pass of about 28 miles away. Which is to say, right here.

We're prepared, although now that I think of it we could use a little more in the pantry. We've got plenty of "hurricane food" put away, but you don't want to break into that right away. So a trip to Plaza Extra (grocery store) is next on my to-do list. And make sure everything we've got that takes a battery is completely charged, because it's a sure bet the power is going out. The power always goes out.

We don't expect a lot of damage, although you can never be sure. But it's really annoying, we had plans for the weekend, and they didn't include huddling inside with flashlights while 60 mile and hour winds blow at the windows. Among them, Millie's birthday is tomorrow and since she has to work Monday, she was planning to spend the day at the beach with friends. That ain't happening. Nor is the pirate video shoot we'd planned. We could do it, but it won't be the same in the driving rain.

Anyway, 'tis the season, to borrow a phrase from a completely different context.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Ain't 'Fraid ah no Jumbie

Last night was the annual Jumbie talk, and Max and I – who went last year – brought Tori along.

I've covered the event twice for the Source. This is the link to this year's story, which was affected by some heavy rain a couple of hours before it was scheduled to start. It's a good story, but last years (linked here) was better, I thought.

A Jumbie is, essentially, a ghost. Or as one guy – a Catholic priest who wrote a book on Jumbie tales – said "Ghost is Yank and jumbie done be Crucian. We got no ghosts in the Virgin Islands."

Anyway, the event is held at a camp up in the rain forest. There's a hike right down the middle of the road, in the dark, where the guide points out haunted spots on the road. There's a dinner of local food, performance by a quelbe band, and, when its good and dark, jumbie stories. Anyone can tell one, but the best are from the old timers. Jumbie stories were a big art of island lore before television and smart phones and the Internet, and the event is a chance to recapture some of that oral tradition.

Tori noticed this first, but when the old timers told a story, it was almost always about a jumbie as a malevolent spirit. "Jumbie gonna get you!" Being chased by jumbies, running away from jumbies, or advice on how to avoid or fool jumbies. Jumbies are apparently kind of stupid. Wear your clothes inside out or backwards and that fools 'em.

Jumbies were something parents used to make their children behave or teach them lessons about what's expected of them in Crucian culture.

But when younger people, especially people who moved here recently from the states, tell about them, it's always a warm fuzzy, very new agey story about spirits. Not nearly as entertaining.

Anyway, we had fun. The rain cut the crowd from about 200 last year to about 60, 70 this year, so there was more than enough food to go around. The organizers made people take extra plates home. And of course it made everything wet, but since there were so few people, there was plenty of space at the picnic tables for everyone, and no need to spread out a blanket on the soggy ground.

And, by the way, jumbie is not to be confused with his benevolent cousin, the moko jumbie, portrayed by stilt dancers in parades and at festivals. The moko jumbie is originally a Trinidad tradition, I believe, a guardian of the village. Because he's so tall, he can see danger coming a long way off.

Just remember that if a jumbie is following you, go into your house and leave 99 grains of rice on the porch. The jumbie, who is apparently also an obsessive-compulsive, will have to count them, and spend so much time trying to find the 100th grain that he'll forget all about you. They also don't like lime, garlic or salt.

Just in case, you know?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

That was a mistake

Well that must have surprised anyone who happened on it while it was briefly online.

I posted Mark's 46th chapter of a story he and I are writing on a different blog, but instead of putting it where it belonged I posted it here. If you're a follower of Island Time you might have briefly been aware of the chapter on this blog. I deleted it and put it back where it belongs. So everyone move along. Nothing to see here.

And why was I posting Mark's blog? About the time Google acquired Blogspot and required you to have a Google address to use it, it all got too complicated for him. He is NOT my co-worker with whom I once had the following real conversation:

Co-worker – The printer is broken.

Me – It's not broken. It's out of paper.

Co-worker – Well that's broken to me!

But he's not a lot more comfortable with anything more technical than a bottle opener. And that's really all it is. Comfort. Mark is as smart as anyone I know. He just prefers his comfort zone. And who can blame him?

Anyway, you might want to go over to "The Curacao Caper" on The Ships Log o' the Festering Boil and see what's up with the story. I figure the caper has about three chapters before it's done.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where's Emily?

After days of preparing for Emily, the tropical weather system that was churning towards us across the Atlantic, we were braced for whatever she might throw at us. And all the forecasts had her strengthening into a pretty good storm, and coming right over the top of us.

But over the weekend, when it should have been organizing, it didn't. And then the track shifted south, so it looked as if it would be passing about a hundred miles south of us. Not that we're complaining. Just because you think you're ready for something doesn't mean you want it.

Emily finally did reach the designation tropical storm Monday, and Tuesday passed about a hundred miles south of here. Sine rain and wind. That's it. Here is the video we shot of it and posted for the Source.

The photo shows pelicans lw over the waves, battling the wind from Emily Tuesday afternoon near Good Hope.

Emily was good practice for August and September – the heart of the hurricane season. Becase you don't want to wait until the storm is on tp of you to get ready. She was a wakeup call. Out here you just never know what's coming for you across the ocean.