Experiences of a tropical hurricane

Janet the hurricane

A hurricane passed through the islands in 1955. We lived on the island of Grenada in the West Indies. I was one year old at that time so I remember none of the events, but every islander would tell you the stories about the time Janet passed through, many houses were damaged, crops of bananas, nutmeg and cocoa were uprooted and lives were lost swept down the rivers of pulsating water. There was much flooding, damage and lost. Of course electricity was down, water wells were unusable. The government had requested the natives to boil the water before drinking. The Red Cross had sent help to Grenada.

The family home

My family had just built there house, and as my mother told me, it was a refuge to some neighbors. Our house survived with only a lost of galvanized sheeting from the roof and some minor cracks. This was nothing compared to the destruction of many homes around. We resided on a hill so there was no flooding. Life as they knew it was changed and fear came over the islanders. Before all they heard about hurricanes, was lots of rain, children were let out of school early and everyone was happy because culture foods were cooked and the family was all together.

Experiencing the storm

Time passed and I grew up and experienced hurricanes myself. There was a lot of teachers huddled near the radio and then the edict came down that we should be sent home. Our parents were in their shop so I went there and waited to go home. Their shop was only about fifty yards form the water’s edge. The high waves could be heard crashing against the wall. My mother closed the shop, she tried to sell the last bag of flour, surgar and any last minute canned stuff goods that the shoppers stocked up on in times of hurricanes. We all climbed into the car; my father, mother, brother and I and climbed the hill towards our home. The rain was beginning to come down in torrents. We ran into the home excitedly, mostly because we were not in school. Being all at home , our mother would have bakes and fish cakes ready for lunch.

A child’s view

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As a child, every experience was somewhat non significant as long as your parents are near. To me a hurricane was not a fearful time but a time of refreshing, being with the parents who were workaholics. We played games like Chinese checkers, snakes and ladders and cards. Just imagine, mother in the kitchen, kids playing and father listening to the radio. We didn’t have TV until my brother went to America nineteen seventies. The radio was the focal point and connections to all Grenadians. If the weather was severe, sometimes electricity was cut so your battery powered radios and flashlights were you lifeline.

The storm continues

The rain grew heavier and the winds began to pick up, we could hear it by the slamming of some windows that are not tightly shut. Mother would call out for someone “to shut that window. The food is coming”. We got more excited, in school we were not hungry, but being home everyone is hungry. We had an early lunch with the whole family in tact. This rain and wind continued all through the night. As we went to bed, (bedtime was around 8 pm on the island) the rain could be heard on the roof, the beating on the windows and the howling of the wind.

Morning on the island

I cannot remember sleeping, but I remember getting up the next morning. The rain and wind had subsided and I went unto the veranda which was wet. Looked up and down the village and the place had a washed looked. Everything looked serene, no one was walking around. Quietness descended on Grenada, children home, mother started breakfast and father listened to the radio. The announcer said that the eye oh the hurricane passed near the island, this was a narrow miss. My question was “are we going back to school?” We had to stay home another day, because some parts of the country did not fare too well and some of our teachers lived in the outer parishes and could not come into St. George’s, the town in which we lived.

After the storm, there is always a calm, a peaceful center and that I remember. That when I migrated to America, and I hear that there is a hurricane coming, I don’t think much of it until Katrina. Now I have a fear of hurricanes and try not to live in states that are in the hurricane belt. Life continues and seasons change but the earth endures for the next catastrophe.

Story Club #2: Surviving the Elements

 

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