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20 Things I Learned from Hurricane Irma

Vieques, Puerto Rico

We were lucky.

Irma did little structural damage to Vieques. The trees and landscaping were not as fortunate. Huge trees were uprooted and many roads were semi-blocked from branches and debris. The electrical and telephone poles are still standing, but there was some damage to a few power lines.

It evidently takes a while to assess the damage to the electrical infrastructure before the switch can be pulled to restore power.

Yesterday was the 7th day we had no power, Internet, or water. We have limited cell reception if you stand in a certain place on our upper porch and hold your head a certain way. So all of our family and friends know we are safe and “roughing it.”

When there is no power for a length of time and ice is scarce, dinner parties are a good way to use up the food, as well as enjoy time with friends. Last night a couple that we’ve befriended here on the island (Donald and Rosie) threw a dinner party. You’d have to meet this dynamic duo to know that they are masters at making lemonade out of lemons, true optimists and incredible people.

After dinner the sweaty group of attendees “retired” to their back porch decorated with candles, bug coils, and ice chests. We were all commiserating, telling funny stories and really enjoying each other’s company when suddenly the wall lamp in the bedroom started to flicker. At first we thought we were hallucinating but eventually, one by one, the lights and electrical appliances began to illuminate and purr.

We all stood, hugged each other and regaled a chorus of “Happy Days are Here Again!” A true Kodak moment. You would have thought that we’d won the lottery!

John and I rushed home and sure enough, we had power too and the water faucets began to trickle. By this morning we could even flush!!

So as I look back on the last seven days of Irma recovery, I realize that I’ve learned a lot. Remember, I was a hurricane rookie before all this. Here’s the top twenty things I’ve learned:

Never accept a house sit in the Hurricane Belt during Hurricane Season if there is no backup generator.

I can go only three days without some sort of water immersion.

Just like our pioneering ancestors, I’ve learned the true meaning of hauling water. The rain barrel on the property is mid-way down the hill. Getting to it with an empty bucket is a snap. Hauling a bucket full of water, uphill or downhill with no leaking or sloshing takes skill. Kudos to Jack and Jill.

We’ve learned which neighbors have generators for powering up our devices and John’s bug zapper. We are blessed to have awesome friends, Tom and Sue, who are our angels. They kept us supplied with critical charges.

Never, ever fill the freezer with meats during hurricane season. EVER!

Make sure you have an ice chest (preferably one that doesn’t leak). We learned the location of the only ice house on the island. We’ve memorized all the trees and hobbled landscaping in front of it by waiting in line for hours for two precious bags of frozen H2O.

Learn your property and the hot spots for cell signals. Learn your island and the hot spots for cell signals. Higher is better.

Each day without power, water, cell and Internet makes me realize what a remarkable man I’ve married.

Surviving is a given. We know that eventually we will see the light at the end of the tunnel (preferably when we flip on a switch, too). Smiling through it all is optional but it sure makes surviving easier.

The island is surrounded by water. Duh. This means getting wet is always available.

It’s easier to rake, clean up broken branches and pick up debris when you don’t have a bra on.

I’m a walker/runner and most mornings I’m usually pretty sweaty. I’ve learned that run/walk sweat smells much sweeter than hurricane cleanup sweat.

There’s a reason I exercise early in the morning. My stamina wanes rapidly during the heat of the day.

Never underestimate the power of wind. Never underestimate the power of, uh, electricity. I will never, ever take either for granted again.

Know your digital devices and how much power each function takes. Make cell phone conversations short. Don’t send photos with text messages. Don’t do group texts. Try not to stream or upload/download anything. Airplane mode and ultra power saving modes are your friends.

Even though there is no breeze, if you sit absolutely still, it’s cooler.

Designate one person to let your friends and family know you are okay. Make sure they have a list of who to contact. Ask them to post on your social media sites (Facebook, etc.) that you are okay. Try to communicate only with that person.

Develop a network of neighborhood/island friends. Try to communicate with them each day.

Just like Petticoat Junction (sans the petticoat) I’ve learned to wash my hair from a rain barrel. Yee ha!

You can see a gazillion stars when there is no light pollution. It’s breathtaking. One night we saw a space station zooming through the sky. Or maybe it was a satellite. We weren’t sure which it was, so we waved, just in case.

When we realize the vastness and beauty of the universe all the hardships and maladies that have befallen us since Irma seem trivial.

I guess, I should add that we have become weather monitor junkies like never before. We’ve learned to listen to the folks around us that are hurricane pros.

We’ve learned a lot, and it’s a good thing. We hear there’s another hurricane headed our way next week.

They call this wind…Maria.

Story Categories:

2017,House Sitting,Puerto Rico

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