Tuesday, September 19, 2017

170918 Update 2

There was an announcement that the government will shut down the electric system island-wide at 6:00 pm today so this may be the last post for a while.

We've battened everything down as best we can. Tomorrow morning we will move up the cliff to our "hurricane quarters." We should be plenty safe. The horses are good and in a good place. Now we just hope Maria is not as bad as predicted.

See ya on the flipside.

170919 Update

 Dawn of the first day...

watching the progress of Maria. I just saw one report on ABC that shows her clipping the northeast corner of the island and then easing north much like Irma did. I wanna believe but...pretty much all the other reports still have her going right over top of us. Although, the projections on Ventusky.com echo the ABC report. Windy.com shows her making landfall farther south and bisecting the island, passing east and then north of us. The "good" news now she's expected to be a "only" a Cat 4, not the Cat 5 that smashed Dominica this morning.

We are all boarded up. I'm sand bagging around the bar as best I can. We'll see how that goes.

For now it's a lovely sunny day with a nice breeze. Moving on...

170918 Best moments with a generator

Generators are in very short supply here on the island after Irma and facing Maria. Lots of people - including us - are looking for one. Shipments of generators headed for Puerto Rico were rerouted to Florida(!) and to the Virgin Islands which so devastated by Irma.

On Sunday, after teaching in Rincon, Elaine went on down to Mayaguez to look for some things at Sam's and Home Depot. As she walked into Home Depot, a guy in an SUV was struggling with a generator. Elaine said, "Did you just buy that?"

The guy answered, "No, I'm returning it. Do you want it?"


So he returned it and she Elaine bought it, all in one transaction. Other people saw the generator come in and like moths to a flame, they all descended on it. But - Elaine already had it. Elaine told the clerk she had other shopping to do. The clerk said, "Oh no! Get it in your car and get it out of here!" So with a little help she stuffed this huge generator almost into the trunk of our little Nissan Sentra and took off for home.

(We interrupt this blog about generators for the first power outage of Hurricane Maria.)

 Now back to your blog...

On the way home she thought about what we need a generator for: the refrigerator. Yep, but our friends Carole and Rolf have a big generator and an big refrigerator. Access to the Internet. Yes, but if there is catastrophic damage to the electric grid - which, given the fragile condition of the infrastructure, seems likely - there will be no Internet to access. Lights? We can make do. Amber's fan? Yeah, but are we going to run a generator just so the dog has his fan? (Okay, we all know the answer to that one: YES!)

Our friend Annie (the other therapeutic riding instructor Elaine works with) was out looking for a generator. She and her husband Justin have two darling little girls.

Let's see - who needs the generator more?

So Elaine called Annie and asked if they wanted the generator. You've never seen two happier or more grateful people. Justin came to the house yesterday, paid us and we loaded "our" generator in the back of his car. A bit of paranoia set in and he covered it with a sheet so it wasn't so obvious. but we watched "our" generator drive away, knowing we'd done a good thing for some amazing wonderful people.

Great moments, getting the generator and then moving it on to someone who needs it more than we do.

Monday, September 18, 2017



Well, we got away with one with Irma. Doesn't look like we're going to be so lucky with Maria. She is now predicted to be a Cat 4 when she crosses Puerto Rico. She going to hit all the islands Irma hit and the ones farther down the Antilles chain Irma missed/

We're battening down - again.  And I guess preparing to move to higher ground - again. 

We've been without power - again- since Friday evening. Apparently a major transformer collapsed and the electric authority didn't have a replacement nearby. We got power back last night, which is a bonus since I was told by AEE yesterday morning "It might be Monday. Probably Tuesday. But maybe Wednesday." Just in time to lose it again to Maria. 

Once again I will update through the storm as best I can. Hang in there. Got go make some preparations and then go diving.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Best moment 170911

This is Elaine's birthday. It's not bad enough that she gets to share it with the attack on the World Trade Center. In our post-Irma world, she had car trouble twice. A friend of our was rushed to the hospital unconscious. There was more but I can't remember. seems like we were going all day though.

There were two best moments amid all the mayhem:

Marie had a birthday surprise for Elaine when we went to feed the horses. It was very nice and very sweet.

And at 10:49 pm, we got electricity back after nearly six days without. Hooooraaaay!

One thing this taught us: If we have to be without water or electric - if we have the choice - we choose being without electric. Being without water is way worse. But now we have both and are so grateful.

Internet and cell service are still spotty but we are stumbling back into the 21st Century.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Musings 170909

Day 5 without electricity. Ours went out with the first drop of rain and first little gust of wind on Wednesday morning. Some areas around us are slowly getting electric back. We will eventually.

After eleven years of having the same conversation about a generator (Should we get one? How big? What will we plug into it? Where will we store it? Where will we run it [hate the noise and fumes]? And on and on and on.) Yesterday, for the first time, we said "maybe." So I went looking. Would you believe it? There is not a generator available on this island! Not one!

I've thought a lot about this living without electric thing. It's such a First World problem. A hundred years ago most of the world didn't have electricity. Huge chunks of it still don't. But it's the life we've set ourselves up for. We  expect that electric power to be there. Okay, we'll make short term temporary allowances for hurricanes, blizzards and ice storms. But only short term and very temporary.We expect our lives to be disrupted as little as possible and restored as quickly as possible.

Granted, I live on a tropical island, not in the north anymore. When the poser goes out here, nobody freezes to death as happens with absurd regularity in northern winter storms.

Yes, it's hot. But we don't have air conditioning anyway. Yes, we're scrambling to eat or find ice or find some one with power or a generator for the perishable food in our 'fridge and freezer. Yes, I'm annoyed because I don't have a really cold beer right here.

But that's all just an inconvenience! I realize there are people with medical issues for whom a power outage is much more serous than just an inconvenience. But for the great majority of us that's all it is,, an inconvenience, not a crisis. Okay, our Internet isn't available (this may be the most difficult one for me). No two-hundred-channel cable TV (which we don't have anyway.) So what?

The "so what?" is we are so dependent on it. Even poor Amber, our 17-year-old Vizsla. He lies on the bed, staring at the unmoving fan and panting. I know it's hot, Buddy. It will come back on. Sometime.

Pretty much all our communication is electronic. Does anyone even have a home land line anymore? We don't. Even we have cell phones. We aren't slaves to them the way some people we know are, but we have them. And use them. Right now I'm using mine as a "portable hotspot" so I can keep my computer connected to the web to write this. How cool is that?

I don't remember the last time I wrote a letter. We email. (Probably the last time I did write a letter I most likely sent it as an attachment or an email). Or worse yet we Facebook message or text. A few very intelligent people I know cn't (or won't) have telephone conversation. They only text. In that god-awful text shorthand.

I'm not a raving survivalist but I've wanted to live more simply and self-sufficiently and off-the-grid since college in the 1970s. I guess I haven't wanted it badly enough to actually do anything about it! I confess I allowed myself to be wooed to some degree by the "dark side." It's easy. When it works it's great. When it doesn't, we're frustrated.
Could I learn a different, less dependent way to live? Could I give up my computer and my digital photography? Could I give up my scuba diving (which is dependent on electricity to power the compressor for air)? Could I give up access to the Internet which for all it's craziness is still a great tool for learning and sharing? Could I learn Buteat fresh and not depend on refrigeration? That seems like a bit of a copout. I would just be depending on someone else's refrigeration. And given the way things are here on the island, I would have to drive everyday to find my fresh food. Is that any better?

It's amazing the acid trip five days without electricity can send your head on.

To all our friends in Florida in Irma's path: Please stay safe. Catch you on the back side.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Best moment 170909

Still no electricity but we do have water. At least we can take showers and make coffee. Electricity is coming though. Several areas near us have power back.

Because of the power thing, our access to information and communication is limited. The best moment was realizing that Hurricane Jose is not only going to miss us, it's also going to miss the small islands in the Lesser Antilles that were devastated by Irma. We are so grateful.

 Ola Lola's is closed for September for our annual clean-up, fix-up. Now we're moving on with that.

So not so much hurricane news now. We and others around us are returning to our "normal" lives. In John Steinbeck's words (read this with John Huston's voice in your head) "The world was once again spinning in greased grooves."

More photos as soon as we get power.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Best momentS 170907

There were three best moments today:

We made it through the night and woke up to find minimal damage. Irma veered northward enough that we only caught a glancing tropical storm-like blow instead of the full Category 5 fury.

Which led to our second "best  moment:" On our way to check on the horses I stopped at home. House and business are fine.

So the weird part of all this is we didn't flood! There was a big storm surge and high waves but very little rain. We drove down the coast this afternoon and saw several places where the ocean pushed through, The waves must have dammed up the end of the river but there wasn't enough ran to cause it to flood. There were some limbs down and a lot of leaves and debris to rake up, but no flood damage to clean up.

Poor Chocolate! He's the leader, its his herd. He must have been awake all night keeping vigil over his charges. He was exhausted  - but otherwise fine - when we got there this morning. In the photo above he is resting his head on my shoulder. I rubbed his neck and he just stayed there. This went on for quite a while. We will post more photos when we can.

We're mostly running on battery power and a "portable hotspot" on my phone. It is barely allowing me to post this let alone upload photos.  We're hoping - but not counting on - getting power back tomorrow. So far we've had water but the pressure has dropped this afternoon and we don't know how long that will last. We stock piled quite a bit so we should be okay And it's supposed to rain again.

Alright. Gotta go. More when we can.

170907 8:20 AM

Just a quick update: we survived the night.

Irma did us a huge favor. She turned just a bit north and the eye was 100 miles away by the time she passed out end of the island. We had strong gusty tropical storm force - not hurricane - winds.

A little over a third of the island is without electricity, including us. But we still have water as of now which is more important.

Our dogs were understandably anxious - new surroundings, new sounds, a storm - but they are fine. We're heading out now to check on the house and they onto see the horses.

More later as we can.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

170906 7:20 AM

Irma is now the strongest storm ever out over the open Atlantic, outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The mandatory evacuation order is still in effect for us so we will be out of here soon. Dogs are antsy and joints are starting to ache as the barometric pressure falls.

Horses are as good as they can be. They are in an open field with room to run if they need to. They have lots of water which should be replenished by rain water in the short term. In case they get loose, they all have fluorescent green paint in their manes and tails and our phone number written on their sides in permanent marker. Plus, they all have I.D. chips. It's going to be hard not to be near them but they are as safe as we can make them.

The 5:00 am forecasts show Irma moving north again away from the island as she passes the island. Hurricane force winds extend 50 miles out from the eye. We're hoping she'll be far enough away that we get tropical storm winds and not the full force of the hurricane.

Gotta go.

170906 12:20 AM

The choice of staying or going is out of our hands. We are now under a mandatory evacuation order. We have to be out by morning at the latest.

I will say a big part of me is not happy about leaving. I know moving up the hill is the smart safe thing to do. I would just like to be in my own house for this.

Til later...

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

170904 Thoughts on Irma

This morning was beautiful

There was not a hint of what's out there coming our way.

At the moment Irma is a Category 5 hurricane. The current predictions are that she will hit the northeast corner of the island with hurricane force winds but will then continue on to the northwest. The wind strength diminishes as you move farther away from the eye. By the time she passes our corner of the island the eye should be far enough away that we will "only" get tropical storm-strength winds. (Update: since I wrote that, the latest forecast has Irma staying much closer to the island, 30 nautical miles instead of 100 nautical miles. Irma has also increased to 185 mph sustained winds.)

Our biggest short-term, immediate fear is not wind but water. The forecast for our end of this island is for about 6 inches of rain. That's quite a bit but not disastrous. But that rain comes with kind of a "perfect storm" of sea conditions. The predictions are for a 4-6' storm surge. That means the "base" level of the ocean will be 4' to 6' higher than normal. Add to that tomorrow night is the full moon which means higher than normal tides. On top of that add 20'-plus storm-driven waves. All of that will be driving right into the mouth of the little river, effectively damming it up. All the rain water from up above has no where to go.

Longer term of course is the fear about the fragility of the island's electric and water infrastructure. We could be without electric or water for days, maybe weeks. Like most people, we stock-piled water. We also have two 600-gallon cisterns filled with captured rainwater.  Loss of electric is an inconvenience. Ola Lola's is closed for the rest of September anyway for our yearly "down time", so keeping beer and burgers cold is not the issue it would be if we were open.

We've taken the precautions we can. We put plywood over our few glass windows. We have everything that water can damage up off the floors. We put "hurricane straps" Tomorrow when we do the final storm close-up we will sandbag around the bar to minimize any water damage.

All those preparations aside, we have decided to spend the night in a friend's house up on top of the cliff. It is a concrete house on the former air force base so it was built to withstand a war. Not only does that put us up out of the flood zone, we will be right around the corner from our friends Carole and Rolf. Rolf has dementia. No one knows how he might react to the storm. We will be close in the event Carole needs a hand. In truth, that was the deciding factor for me to move up the mountain. And, as the storm forecasts worsen, that seems like a good plan.

When - when, not if - we lose electricity we will of course lose access to the Internet, social media and all that. It is likely we will lose cell phone signal at least for a while. We are so used to instant communication that "old school" seems hard. Hang in there. We will make contact whenever we can.

'Til then do like the horse do and keep your back to the wind. See ya on the flip side!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Hoping for best moments 170903

Apparently that high pressure area in the Mid-Atlantic isn't moving like they thought it was going to. It keeps pushing Hurricane Irma south and isn't letting her turn north away from us. Irma has the distinction of being the earliest storm to become a major hurricane (August 30; the old record was September 2) and the storm to develop into a hurricane the farthest east in the Atlantic. Looks like we're not going to dodge this one.

Sitting here watching hurricanes coming at us always reminds me of the 1957 Neville Schute book On the Beach (It was made into a movie in 1959 starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.) After a nuclear war, Australia (which had no part in the war) is the last country to be affected by the nuclear fallout. The people go about their lives pretty much as usual, as normally as they can under circumstances, knowing that "the cloud" is coming, that it is inevitable. There is nothing they can do but keep living til it comes to them.

Okay, we're hoping even this Category 4 monster isn't that inevitable or that deadly. It's the waiting, the watching, the knowing there is nothing you can do to change it. All we can do - yes, it's a cliche but... - is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

I've been in or near four tornadoes. I love thunderstorms. In another life I woudda/coudda been a storm chaser. That said, as much as I like new experiences, I can really live without going through a hurricane. Looks like that option is about to close.

Sidebar: The headlines are all about "will Irma hit Florida?" Hey, people! There a bunch of islands and several million people between Irma and Florida. Hello!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Best moment 170902

My best moment was very early in the day. Elaine was working, teaching riding lessons, in Rincon so I hung out feeding the horses. Nothing special happened. It was just fun hanging out.

There were a couple of good moments at Ola Lola's, making new friends with Kat and Anna from Sacramento, and spending time with our friends Mac, Shirley and Darryl (who just came back from a week-long dive trip on a live-aboard in the Bahamas).

Friday, September 01, 2017

Best moment 170901

Today is my father's birthday. If he were still with us, he would have 93 years today. I hope it's a wonderful happy day for him, wherever his spirit is. 

He always said his birthday was easy to remember: it's the day World War II started. Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, my dad's 15th birthday.

My best moment in the present was this morning with our horses. Elaine and I got to ride a little bit. Now off to Ola Lola's. Maybe something this evening will top that and be a new "best moment" for today.