After a 14 year ‘involuntary’ Caribbean hiatus, I was back on track: I had a wonderful two week solo trip booked for the last 2 weeks of August in 2012. Those 14 years were half filled with me getting pummeled by life & the other half spent wondering, ‘WTF just happened?’ This is the time I refer to as the ‘eye of the tornado’ in my hell. After three back-to-back traumas in a 6 year span, I spent a lot of time digging myself out of hellholes. I handled ‘starting over’ like a pro. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve recreated myself & my life. Every single day is a chance to start anew 😉
About halfway through my vacay we got the severe weather warnings & it didn’t take long for the weather to change: starting with very heavy rain as the angry clouds rolled in, with winds that were really fierce. We were told the next day or two would be pretty rough. They slipped notices under our doors, advising us to pack a small bag with essentials including passports, just in case; but it was preferable we stay in our rooms for our safety.
I figured I should probably get my drink on ..
The next day I woke up to quite the storm. I could hear the wind howling outside. I went to my window & noticed it was raining sideways. Looking for the path of least resistance – or the least drenching – I took the giant room umbrella with me & started heading over to the buffet for lunch. But the wind was so strong! Knowing the umbrella would never retain it’s shape – & my refusal to struggle with it – I returned it to my room & grabbed a beach towel to hide under instead. The palms were getting blown with such a force I thought they’d rip right out of the ground.
After lunch they did not open up the bars; & much to my chagrin I soon learned that alcohol would not be served at any of the resort’s bars. Seems they wanted people to keep their wits about them. So much for that idea .. Initially I wasn’t too worried – having never experiencing a hurricane before, I didn’t realize how bad it could get – but I soon learned many others were. I spent the afternoon & early evening in my room, watching tv & trying to wait out the torrential downpour. You know, so the bars, where all the liquor is, would be functional enough to get me to a non functional enough state 😉
Soon I heard a lot of hustle & bustle outside my room – hurried voices laced with panic. Then came several knocks from neighbors with similar requests: ‘Do you have any tape so I can tape up my windows?’ Um, sorry no. Did not think to pack that, no. I looked out from my balcony & sure enough, saw the big tape ‘X’s’ on people’s room windows. That’s when my anxiety cranked up a notch. ‘Surely they’re exaggerating!’ I thought. But it was still raining sideways. A tad nervous, I got in touch with some friends on the mainland, in Morón, who promised to come hang if things got too rough. But alas, the little two lane road, the pedraplén, from the mainland to the keys (Cayos) was unsafe to use & was closed; no one allowed in or out:
El Pedraplén, Cuba: To drive along a pedraplén (causeway) is an incredible experience, especially the longest one in the world, going from Caibarién to Santa María Cay, Cuba, about 48 kilometers long & feels as if driving over the sea. When the sea is calm there are no waves & the sky is mirrored on the water’s surface, giving the impression that the horizon has disappeared & that you’re driving across a flat world.
The rain of course brought plenty of mosquitos – way more than usual; & they ravaged me like never before. It was so bad that people kept approaching me with looks of concern, asking if I was ok. I looked like I had a sudden, major chicken pox outbreak. I had bites everywhere. Thankfully some vacationers took pity on me – they’d never seen anyone bitten so bad apparently – & gave me their stash of benadryl. So by 8pm that night, unable to meet up with my friends, or get drunk, I figured my best bet was to try to sleep through it; I decided to pop a couple of those benadryl & crash.
I didn’t know if I was gonna die that night, but I sure as hell didn’t wanna feel it if I did ..
I survived – we all did – there were no serious issues aside from the early onset panic. And tons & tons of sideways rain. All we got was really, really soaked.
I’ve definitely been paying much closer attention to those hurricane forecasts ever since. I was lucky – but as we see with many a hurricane aftermath, many aren’t so lucky. I guess I thought Cuba, at 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq mi), would be safer than the smaller islands like Dominica & St. Maarten that got pummeled with Harvey last year:
- It is now being estimated that the total amount of economic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 billion dollars.
So I guess the moral of this story is ‘Be Smart, Don’t be Stupid’ & ‘Don’t Mess with Mother Nature.’ I hardly suggest living in fear of what might happen, as that’s not living.
But putting yourself in the path of a major hurricane during hurricane season is probably not the wisest choice. I’ll never forget that Wind – this incredible force that cannot be seen, touched, or put into a box – can surge up to 250km for a Cat 5.
It’ll tear the roof right off your house like it was made of flimsy little paper plates.
I always say Love is the most powerful force in the Universe, but Mama Nature’s got some pretty powerful forces as well. Be Smart. Don’t be Stupid 😉