Hurricane season 2018 just started about a week ago. Last year the Virgin Islands, among other numerous islands in the Caribbean, had to deal with both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. These tragic storms left much in devastation. I was not home personally in 2017, but these storms and this new season took me back to 1995 – Hurricane Marilyn.
Place: St. Thomas, USVI
Hurricane Marilyn 1995
In 1995, I experienced what it was like to go through an actual storm. Matter of fact, there were actually two storms that I remember from that year. But the first, was hardly anything to speak of compared to what would follow less than two weeks later.
For more stats, go here.
During the Storm
I remember as the storm started, there was barely any light outside. The winds started to pick up as the sun was setting and all you could do was wait.
Wait to see when the lights would shut off. Wait to see when the rain would start to fall. Wait to see when the storm would actually hit. Then, wait to see what was left after it was all over.
I lay in my bed in my room listening to the howling winds in the dark. There were several loud crashing noises that came from the elements outside slamming into our rooftop. It was hard to sleep.
At some point, as the rain began coming down heavier, my bed had to moved from its corner to to the bedroom door and halfway into the hallway. Another BOOM from the roof. Yep, there was no sleeping happening tonight.
The only time we went outside during the storm, was when we were in the middle of the eye. We watched from the porch and saw people’s roofs in the street. Galvanize was slung everywhere and tree branches littered the entire street. We were already halfway through it at that point, but it felt like the end of it took forever to come.
When it was all over, we took another look outside at the damage that had been done.
Thankfully, we didn’t have a galvanize roof or I’m pretty sure ours might’ve been gone, like most of our neighbors who had one. My dad left the house to walk to housing to check on his older sisters.
Aside from the rain/water damage and being without power, they were in the same position as we were. Glad to see another day.
In the aftermath, I spent time between my main home, Estate Thomas and housing by my aunt. I spent days chilling with my cousins, filling up buckets of water when the water trucks came through housing, eating MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and waiting for some sense of normalcy.
At one point, I remember shortly after the storm, I went down the road with my aunt and cousin, to see what was left of our local grocery store, Grand Union. It was completely torn up and never did return after the storm. Being the smallest (and probably the youngest who couldn’t object), I was asked to crawl the grimy floors of the store to look on the bottom shelves for any canned items.
Not much was left. Looters had already taken most of the good stuff. From the grocery stores to FootLocker, looters had already been through and took what they could get there hands on.
I hardly left the vicinity of Estate Thomas and housing during those times, as we were on a constant curfew every night. I could only imagine what the rest of the island looked like.
A (Small) Sense of Normalcy
Eventually, power was restored, curfews were over, and we were able to head back to school. Only, we couldn’t head back to our own school because it was completely destroyed. I hated that I would spend my last year of elementary school at someone else’s school, but double sessions were abound and unavoidable.
I used to purposely try to be on the last bus going and coming to school. I never understood what sense it made to make our school have to take the afternoon session when it would have been much easier for the children of Kirwan Terrace to walk home versus shuttling small kids back to Lockhart to then have to walk home at indecent hours. Don’t get me started on my love/hate relationship with those days.
In my time remaining on the island, up until my high school graduation, there had never been another storm as bad as Hurricane Marilyn.
Eventually, my elementary school was rebuilt and in 2017 was actually used as a shelter for Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Quite the turnaround from 22 years ago.
As a new hurricane season approaches, I pray that our islands are not hit with any more violent storms that would set them back to the place they were in the aftermath of IrMaria. Lord knows, between the US and British Virgin Islands, they can’t take another hit so soon.
I look back on those days in 1995 and know that Virgin Islanders have the spirit, determination, and strength (#VIStrong) to bring the islands back to it’s glorious, lustrous, and welcoming days. But in the meantime, keep all future storms at bay for this season and next.
Have you ever been through a horrible storm? Let me know your experience and how it impacted you. We are all strong when we come together in the aftermath. #IslandStrong #CaribbeanStrong