Thursday September 7th
24 hours have passed since the biggest hurricane to ever hit the Atlantic, hit our little island. We all survived and that is what mattered, but the aftermath & devastation are mind blowing, our lives will never be the same.
We had done everything we could think of to prepare, not knowing the magnitude of this storm.
Danny and I were both up at 5am Wednesday morning, the eye of the storm was supposed to pass at 2pm- the power went off and our generator kicked on at around 6am. We walked outside and chatted with a neighbor, he was sure our roof would come off and he also told us he was going to turn off our generator around 11- there they were, the two things I was sure wouldn’t happen and someone is telling me different.
There is a vacant apartment right across the street from our house, it is on a lower level, hurricane stutters we’re put up and there was a concrete room we could hunker down in. So, at the last minute we decided that’s where we were going to ride out the storm. The rain and the wind had already began, but nothing too intense yet. So, as quickly as we could, we grabbed everything that we needed and that would make this house comfortable. I put Denver down in front of the TV with breakfast as if nothing was happening, I put Ray in my Solly Baby wrap and collected things from around the house. Every towel, cushion, blanket & pillow we could grab. All our water, canned foods and provisions we could move in a short amount of time, we even rolled the pack and play across the street.
Once we were all next door, we got organized and comfortable. There was a pull out couch in the living room that we put into the bedroom we planned to stay in. I set up my iPad for Denver and thankfully had downloaded ONE movie, Trolls, (which has been on repeat for the past 48 hours). And we were just chilling, quite comfortably I might add. The power was never shut off, we had AC & entertainment. We could watch the storm from the window, all I could see from where I was sitting was a palm tree whipping in the wind- and you could see the directions shift when the eye was getting close.
At around 2pm Denver was finally napping on the couch and I stood up for something and the ground was wet. We pulled the couch out from the wall and the room was starting to flood.
Everything was fine, until it wasn’t.
I strapped Ray back on, we were going to move into the Kitchen which had no outside walls, as I’m getting our stuff together, the window in the bathroom busted from pressure, around the same time a door to the outside flew open and we could not get it shut. Danny put a mattress in front of the door and half of it was sucked outside. We stopped what we were doing and went back into our bunker, trying to soak up as much water as possible. Denver was now awake, and let me tell you how difficult it is to keep a toddler off the floor (the only shoes she has are freshly picked moccs, she looked adorable but they are not hurricane proof).
After that it started to slow back down, and our main goal was staying dry. When Danny felt comfortable he ventured across the street to take a look at the house.
He didn’t come back with good news, he described what happened and I could tell he was upset. But, the five of us (kymani included) were safe and sound. Now let’s get comfortable and ready for bed.
It took Danny a few hours to get all the water out of the room. We pulled out the bed and all snuggled in and we’re finally able to get a little sleep. The storm may have been over, but the thought of dealing with the aftermath was beyond stressful.
This morning we went outside and took it all in. It is not the island it was yesterday. The lush green trees that surrounded our house are now a few branches barely hanging on – and our house, where we’ve called home for five years is now unlivable.
Complete devastation. Our front door was blown open, so Irma was basically in our living room, and blew the couch through our sliding glass doors (which were hurricane grade glass, and boarded with plywood). The entire railing on our deck is detached and in pieces. The couch, baby swing, all of Denver’s books and toys are scattered across the property, for miles. This caused the power in our house to go out, our bedroom door came off and both bedrooms are flooded.
There’s just so much to take in, so much to do it’s impossible to know where to start. There’s really nothing I can do, my job has been dealing with the girls, and Danny is busting his ass to put us in the best possible situation. First, get the house we are going to claim for now, livable. Get the water out and make it so we’re not trapped in one room for God knows how long.
From there I have to go over to our home and salvage anything I can, fill suitcases with clothes and anything that means something that is not soaking wet or on the other side of the island.
It’s a crazy thing, the phrase that goes over and over in your head, is that we are all alive and well. But going forward, I don’t know, I’m not sure where we’re going to live, what will come of our house, etc.
Now we get through another day, and apparently another storm which is headed its way this weekend.
Saturday, September 9th
Everyday it gets better, it’s 630am, and the four of us just woke up. We spent the last two days making trips back and forth from the old house to where we are staying. Thursday afternoon we made our first trip and filled suitcases, quickly. I literally pulled out the entire girls closet and shoved it in a bag. I could barely see what I was grabbing, the power of course is out, and all the windows are still boarded up. I moved as quickly as I could, both girls were next door napping and rain was quickly moving in. A couple of hours later we came back to the “bunker” (not sure what to call it, it’s not home, but it’s the only house we have right now). Danny brought over the TV from our bedroom and my dvds, both which survived so we could watch something other than Trolls, we both showered and called it a night.
Friday we decided to venture out, some of the roads seemed to be clear enough, and we wanted to see our island. We got to the main road which was down to one lane because of all the trees and debris. It’s impossible to comprehend, you have a clear view of the ocean because all the trees are bare or down. The worst part for me was getting a glimpse of Magens Bay. The beach where I work, where Denver’s first birthday was, where we go to the beach as a family every weekend. The entire beach is exposed, not a palm tree in site, and who’s to say the condition of the bar, I pray it still stands. *update, the bar is devastated, the shop was looted and nothing is left. My heard goes out to my dear friends who own the bar.* We continued down towards town, dodging power lines every ten feet, on the ground and above the car. Driving through parking lots because the roads were blocked, and glancing at every structure we know and love to see it devastated.
We got into town, and it was pure chaos, the post office has no roof, the fire station is ruined, roads are flooded and the ocean is brown from all the debris. I watched out the window, the people in town hanging their rugs and towels to dry, cleaning what they could. Cars destroyed, power lines blocking the ally’s, bunk beds ejected from the house on the side of the road. Heartbreaking.
We found a gas station selling gas (which was hard to come by), and getting gas was more dramatic than it should have been.
Took another trip to the house, collected more valuables, and we were able to do laundry at a neighbors house. That was another moment I realized how fortunate we are, to be able to do laundry, have a bed & roof, power and cell service- all of the things you take for granted, are our luxuries right now. I was able to start organizing our things better in the suitcases so, if and when we have to move, we can. Last night was a good night, Danny made macaroni and cheese, we opened a nice bottle of wine and relaxed.
Now we have to prep a bit for Jose to move through, even if it’s just a tropical storm it could do so much damage with how vulnerable the island is right now.
We are Continuing to get organized and comfortable. The girls and I plan to get off the island as soon as the airports are up and running. Spend a little time in the states and not have to worry about running out of supplies m. Until then, we are taking each day as they come with hopes that they get better and better.
At this point, all I want is a long bath and a steak dinner (and maybe a really strong margarita).
Monday, September 11th
There is light at the end of this tunnel. Thank goodness Jose never hit St. Thomas, I’m not sure we could have handled it. So now that we’re not dealing with another storm we were able to remove the boards in our home, to let light in and open the windows. Yesterday, (after we found the jeep with a flat tire and dealt with that), we were told another family was in need of the apartment we are temporarily in, so Danny started cleaning our house. He pushed everything ruined over the edge (don’t worry someone will come and take it all to the dump) and pushed all the water out. Hours later and it was coming along. He went back this morning and did a deep cleaning in the main rooms and the girls room- it’s starting to look livable and I’m feeling SO much relief. We spoke to the landlord and he is going to get our power up and running and send a cleaning crew in tomorrow! We should be able to move back in by the end of the week, we won’t have a couch to sit on or tv to watch but who cares, our house, our bed- cannot wait!
The island looks cleaner everyday. We have a curfew from 6pm- 12pm each day so they are able to get the roads in better condition, and they can worry less about looting and such. Danny went to work this afternoon and we have a late lunch with some friends. Anything to get us out of this bunker!! The girls and I are leaving island on Thursday and will spend about a month and a half in the states with family. Danny has a business trip and is meeting us in October for an already planned vacation. We just want to get the girls in a place with a functioning hospital, grocery store and all those necessities. I have to say I’m looking forward to fall, but I’m not looking forward to leaving Danny or the island.
What a crazy thing we went through and will take time coming back from- but I hope this brings our island closer and we come back stronger than we were.
*most the photos are on Danny’s phone so I will update later.