Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wilma 13

We arrived at P’s house and were greeted like the long lost friends we were! It was such a fantastic feeling to see her all in one piece and well. I knew deep in my heart while we were gone that she would be ok. But it was nice to see it in person. P is tough, determined and a bit stubborn. I knew a little wind and rain would not get her down.

Her house, too, had suffered some damage and was incredibly dirty. The straw roofed sundeck that she had had on the roof of her house was still there. However, it was in shambles. When one of the power poles went down, it literally snapped a wire across her roof which cut her deck down like a hot knife through butter. She was in for a lot of work to get that mess cleaned up. As well as the expense of replacing it. The worst part though was that she had lost the cover from her water tank also. But, unlike ours, her tank was totally dry. Not a drop of water left in it. (this fact was highly suspect. Water does not just blow out of tank like that. Since she had been gone, staying with friends for three days, we suspect that somebody got on her roof and siphoned the water out.)

P does not have a stove. All of her cooking is done on a hotplate or electric fry pan. Neither of which was going to be working for quite some time. We had several cans of Sterno and a cooker thing to put over it. Since our gas stove was fine and working, we gave her this to use. At least she could warm up some soup and make hot water for coffee. Bare necessities. She hardly had any food in the house either. (P hates shrimp that is not deveined and cleaned so we did not bother giving her any of our lunch…she would not have eaten it.) Or at least nothing that would be easy to prepare. Everybody had lost whatever was in their refrigerators. We told her that we were going on a scavenger hunt to see what might still be available and that we would return later with whatever we could find. She begged us to look for potato chips! We were to learn a lot about cravings in the next few weeks!

I truly forget what B did then. I think he decided to walk around the neighborhood to various little stores to see what they may have. L and I got on the motor scooter to venture a little further a field. About a mile from us is a “bigger” neighborhood grocery store. We stopped there and found enough things to satisfy us for awhile. Cans of soup, beans, chips, stuff like that. Nothing fresh though. The prices were outrageous. Gouging had already started. We got back on the bike and headed back to P’s, where B already was waiting.

We unloaded our goodies onto P’s table and told her to take her pick of anything she wanted. She immediately grabbed the chips! I forget what all was there, but it was not much. We didn’t say anything to her because we did not want her to worry, but we were secretly a little worried about what we had been seeing. Would the island run out of food and fresh water soon? There was not much left to choose from anywhere. And the car ferry was not yet running so no supplies were coming in at all.

Later that afternoon the helicopters started arriving. One after the other all day and for several days. The military was bringing in much needed supplies of fresh water and some food items. This was our first taste of how efficient, generous and caring the Mexican people are during a disaster. Most of these items were taken directly to the Red Cross for distribution. The Red Cross came around in trucks and gave everybody at least one bottle of water and a bag with foodstuffs. Including a giant bag of animal crackers! Some store must have donated them. We were not home when they came around the first time so we missed out on the animal crackers!

As we repacked the grocery items that P did not want, she filled us in on her adventure of riding out the storm for three days. She had been advised by both American and Mexican friends to leave her house by the water and move more to the center of the island. She has some good friends who have a two story house right on the lake in the middle of the island. She spent her time with them. As I remember, there were about eight people riding out the storm there. Just imagine having to share living space with eight people, some friends, some you don’t know, for three days with no leaving the house. And no windows to look out, not enough beds for everybody and no lights except candles. Not a pleasant time. She said that everything was fine until the lake started to rise.

For some reason, whenever there is a storm like this, the air pressure forces water (from the sea??) into the lake from the bottom. This, of course, causes the water level to rise. Add to this the never ending torrential rain for three days and you have one overflowing lake! She said the water was up to their knees before her hosts would allow anybody to go upstairs. To get upstairs in this house, you have to go out to the front porch, walk along it and then go up some stairs to the second level porch. From there you have to walk the entire length of the house to enter the second floor. They were in the process of remodeling up there when the storm hit and knew it would not be a comfortable space. Therefore the hesitancy in moving everybody up there. P said it was a terrifying experience.

She is not a large woman by any means. In fact, quite small, but robust. Once they got through the water and to the stairs, the going got rough. Evidently during the storm they would get assaulted by strong hurricane force winds and then they would die down, only to come at them again. It was during one of these lulls that they made a run for it. She said as soon as she got onto the upstairs porch, the horrific winds hit again. The force of it plastered her to the wall and she was stuck. Her clothes were being forced against the wall and holding her in place. She literally had to do a vertical roll along the wall, she could not walk against it. But they all made it safely inside the house again. Scary stuff. Had I been there, I would have made her tie herself onto me. I would have been afraid she might have been blown away, she is so light weight.

As soon as she thought it safe, which was sometime Sunday afternoon, she made her way home. She had driven her golf cart to this house for safe keeping, parking it in front. As she left for her own house, she said her golf cart was still parked where she had left it, except that only the top third of it was visible sticking out of the water! To get home, she had to travel along a road in one of the lowest parts of the island. Water was up to her waist and full of debris and impossible to see into. She had to very carefully pick her way along, trying to avoid standing water where she could, but not always successful. I just shook my head. She should never had tried to get home alone, but, as stated earlier, she is one determined, stubborn babe! Thankfully, she made it home safely and was fine and in great spirits when we visited. In fact, she could laugh at most of what she had been through. For my part, I did not find anything about this storm funny at all.

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