Last Tuesday we got up at the usual time to walk the dogs. The weather looked dark and broody, like it might rain. We debated but decided to go anyway. We cannot see the Caribbean from our house although we can hear it. If we had seen it, we probably would not have left the house.
We walked the short mile down the paved road and took the long beach access called Cruickshank Road. At the sea we confronted a black sky but continued on toward the mouth of Ned Creek where the dogs like to play in fresh water. It started to rain.
We all huddled under a leaning almond tree to wait it out, but the sky looked more malevolent by the minute.
Let’s go,” my husband said. He didn’t need to say it twice. We hurried back to Cruickshank Road, and, already soaked to the skin, I stopped to leash up the dogs.
“Suddenly a huge wind slammed into us from the sea, hurling us backward. Our two little basenjis were dancing on tiptoes wanting to get free. Electricity sizzled in the air and the clap of thunder was so loud it shook my body. Almond trees and palms began to sway and limbs cracked overhead. My husband was already twenty feet ahead of me yelling, LET’S GO!
I am not long-distance jogger, but I took off at a dead run, the two basenjis keeping pace. The road was as dark as night and I heard huge limbs crack, tearing through lower branches, and fall in the jungle. Every time I looked up all the branches were waving about like giant pom poms. The gunshot sound of breaking limbs drove me on. At one point, out of breath, I slowed to a walk, but it wasn’t long before I broke into a run again. There were two trees already down across the road, hung up on other trees from a previous storm. Widow makers, for sure. We dashed under them hoping the driving rain and high winds would not dislodge them. The little basenjis kept looking over their shoulders for my husband and the other two dogs. I kept saying, Let’s go, let’s go.
Out on the paved road again I stopped, waiting for my husband who was only a few seconds behind. Wet through and through from the driving rain we pushed on together for the house. About halfway there the electric lines sizzled, a transformer popped, and the street lights went out. At least we had a wider expanse of road and could see trees before they fell on us, but the wind was whipping around making us worry that a branch might be swept into our path. We started running again.
Finally home, I was drying off the little dogs on our back porch when I heard a loud “thump.” I looked out to see a pejibaye palm drop not ten feet from the house. A dozen abandoned Oropéndola nests spread out over the lawn like dirty mesh bags.
Alan stood in our open-air garage and watched the storm lash the jungle around us. It was as though a cyclone passed through. We could see the path it took and hear it ripping out trees. Trees bigger around than two people could span snapped off 20 feet up, their tops flung fifteen feet away.
Our neighbors across the road built their house and cabins in deep jungle and we heard trees going down over there. I wanted to run over, find out if everyone was okay, but I was also afraid to enter their property until the winds died down.
The whole storm took less than 30 minutes to pass. As soon as it did, we went out to check on everyone. One neighbor’s house was cut clean in half from a fallen tree, the guts of their meager possessions strewn about as the rain came down in sheets. Miraculously no one, including their baby, was injured. It will be weeks cleaning up after this. There are trees down all over our property and widow makers still hang up in trees, but we are okay. Our neighbors are, too.
Local wisdom says, Never build your house under a tree, at the bottom of a hill, or next to a river. I am glad we heeded that advice when it was given.