Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Day One - Post Storm

The morning after hurricane Marilyn FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the local police established martial law on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. All through the day looting was widespread and on St. Thomas, packs of roving locals defied the curfew and did their very best to help themselves to whatever they could find, uncover or steal. On Water Island the cloudy and blowy morning revealed utter destruction and chaos. Fully 80% of the house roofs on the mostly residential island in Charlotte Amalie harbor were shredded and scattered across the hillsides and beyond. I remember that it was very interesting to see how people reacted to being suddenly shoved back into the stone age by Mother Nature. Quite a few took to the bottle and hit it all day into the evening. Others took stock and began building shelters, firing up generators, locating potable water and generally figuring out how to survive. We were lucky in so much as the house where we took shelter, a rental cottage on Providence Point, was in the lee of a hill and had not sustained a hit by one of the mini tornados that had chewed up a large part of the island. Because the cottage was still intact the generous folks - Heidi and Larry - who had gathered us under their roof through the storm were able focus on bringing friends together to pool resources and figure out how to get supplies we needed from the mainland. Ice to keep the food from spoiling was a major concern.

I remember wondering at the fact that not a single leaf remained on a single tree. Water Island had been utterly deforested.

We made contact via VHF with friends who had survived on sail and motor boats and others on mainland St. Thomas. They all told of locals in fast dinghys who were conducting raids as night fell. Those who were sober set up a watch schedule after sunset and, armed with rifles, stood guard over a storm shocked, ratag group of beached boaties and island dropouts.

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