Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Friday, November 26, 2004

Monday morning everyone was up by about 0600. We started walking around the neighbourhood, looking at the damage to our house and the houses around us. There were a few "scars" on the east side of the house and some of them still had asphalt shingles embedded in them. Shingles had come off of our roof, but not too bad. Charlie's roof next door was almost completely bare. His shingles picked up enough speed going across the yard that a they were stuck into the wood of our house like ninja stars.
Almost every building in site had some sort of damage, whether it was damaged roof, flooded out, or busted out windows from flying debris.

Brad stayed the night over at GP's house the night before, and his little Suzuki Samurai started up, so I went with him to check out the rest of West Bay and his apartment, and then mine.

Trees were down everywhere. A lot of roads were simply impassable due to trees, utility poles, power lines and debris. We managed to get out to Northwest Point from the back by cutting through Hell. Never has that name been more apt.

Luckily for Brad, his apartment was relatively undamaged. Brad's apartment is across the street from the water, and up on a bit of a rise. Hurricane Michelle did a number on his neighbourhood (he's about 100 yards from the turtle farm), so we were surprised to see that his apartment was fine, save for a LITTLE ceiling/water damage, as the apt above his lost it's roof and some water dribbled it's way through to his.

We piled back in the jeep and headed around Northwest Point over to my apartment next. As we came around the corner to where Bonnie's Arch, Clan Creek, Dolphin Point and Oceanside Plantation are, we could see that this angle took a severe beating after the eye passed. Bonnie's Arch was gutted. The southern end-unit lost it's oceanfront wall, it's back wall, and it's most-outside wall on the south side. It looked like a drive-through, but it was someone's living room that we were looking through from the road to the sea.
Right next to it is Dolphin Point. Dolphin Point took a beating from Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and all the oceanfront sliding glass doors got slammed in by waves. That was a love-tap compared to Ivan though. The northernmost building (closest to Bonnie's Arch) was just gone. You could see the concrete staircase that used to take you up to the second floor, and there was a partial roof in the mountain of rubble where the building used to be. We ran into someone who said they were in Dolphin Point and estimated the waves on Sunday morning to be 60 feet high. I also heard from someone else in Clan Creek (other side of Bonnie's Arch) say that the waves were going OVER their roof and crashing into the parking lot behind them. Sixty feet might be a bit of an exaggeration, but someone seeing the waves go over the top of their condo is just a tad bit scary.

Moving down to Oceanside Plantation, the two northernmost buildings were fairly gutted. The roof was completely gone, you could see the rafters and joists and through the windows facing the street you could see through the building and out the missing front wall to the sea. The second building was missing half it's roof and a bunch of siding. The third building was still standing, but the pool and poolhouse were broken up (along with all the land around the former pool) and the toolshed had been picked up and pushed south about 50 feet and slammed into the fourth building. Across the street at the Breadfruit Tree Houses, the buildings were still standing, and were'nt too visibly damaged. Their windows were boarded up and there was some people milling around looking a bit shocked.
We moved across the street to my apartment. We're technically still part of Oceanside Plantation, but we're across the street, 50 yards south, and newer. Our walls are block/concrete and our roof was still on. The metal guttering was all twisted and torn off, and there was lots of damage to the finish around the windows. Fortunately we appropriated some plywood and boarded up our windows Friday night. We could only edge into the parking lot a little ways because of all the debris and sand in our carpark. I also saw a dive site mooring ball in our carpark. You have to drive 'down' a grade into our carpark, and the street level is about waist-high from the parking lot, so our greatest fear was flooding. Fortunately, the water didnt come high enough to actually get into the apartments. Junior and Jaema were just getting back at the same time, and Junior was carrying out chunks of sheetrock, and my heart sank.

I walked to our door, and noted that the key was difficult to turn and the door difficult to open. Great. It's swollen from the water. I opened the door and saw some silt on the floor, so there was some water in the apartment. Sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room was a big Dell box that Jenny had put some of her stuff in (as she was planning to move out that week when she got back from holidays, but Mother Nature had other ideas). The box was dry! it's bottom was wet, it sat in the water and wicked up about 3/4 of an inch of water! As it turned out, the only water that got in was water that got blown THROUGH the weather stripping around the door. Walking back to the bedroom, the bed was dry, and all the stuff that I had wrapped in plastic and placed up high were still dry. A few days later I would go back in there and wet-mop the whole apartment out and empty out the fridge.

We tried to continue down Northwest Point Road back to The Shores, and we checked out Joanne's place along the way. She had some roof damage but the flooding didnt reach all the way through her house, either. G & Darlene's apartment looked ok. Some roof tiles were missing, and their pool & hot tub were sitting out on the road, the trees and other landscaping were all messed up and in their carpark. We had to turn around there, as downed trees prevented us from going any further. We backtracked through West Bay which was difficult in itself as road signs were gone, and the landmarks that you used to be able to navigate by were just... gone.

I jumped on a bike around 11 and rode through The Shores. One of the first things I noticed was a 36 foot Intrepid sitting in the mangroves on the side of the road opposite where the water was. I rode my bike out to the house where that boat was raised out of the water in slings the day before and it looked ok, as far as damage went (aside from flood damage that I couldn't see from the street) That house used to have a floating dock, and that dock had a 46' Newton dive boat tied to it. Neither of them were still there. A couple hours later I found the boat. It had broke loose, floated down the canal, out of the canal on the floodwater, across the street, through the mangroves, across another street and down another two blocks and came to the rest at the intersection of another street. Another 25 or 30 feet and the boat would have slammed into Shoreway Townhomes.

We went for a look down towards Morgan's Harbor and Calypso Grill, and they were hardly shells of the buildings they used to be. there was a big pile of debris about 400 yards up Batabano Road where the flood waters finally stopped. Some jackasses had gone and looted the Calypso Grill during the storm/night before. What did they loot? Liquor. Assholes... if they were looting baby formula, I MIGHT turn a blind eye to it, but expensive booze? That's just wrong.

Meanwhile, back at The Ranch (I love saying that) we were messing around with the cars, and stringing up some line to hang clothes on when a 4x4 pulled up, and Jeanette was one of the people in the car. They said that Mariner's Cove had been picked up off it's foundations and moved (mostly intact) into the middle of the street. Emergency crews couldnt get through to the Eastern Districts because of the 30-odd townhouses sitting in the middle of the road, so a bulldozer just ran right through it and pushed them out of the way to clear a path for ambulances and fire trucks. Later they went and just pushed the mountain of debris (the 30-odd townhomes and a bunch of cars) into a 50' pile of debris on the side of the road. Shortly after that I made radio contact with work and Scott told me that Ocean club suffered a similar fate, but was not a complete, catastrophic failure like Mariner's Cove was.

Albert and I decided to ride our bikes down to the Grand Caymanian and see if the Cayman Diver van was still intact and startable, and bring it back to The Ranch. We got about a quarter mile or so down Batabano road when we ran into some friends of his in a Rocky. We jumped in the car with them and got a ride down there.I hadn't been down Seven Mile Beach yet, but they had come up from South Sound and were amazed by the LACK of damage in West Bay!

Heading south on West Bay Road the first thing we noticed were the power lines and utility poles. 99% of them were down. Some poles were uprooted and laid down on the ground next to where their holes had been, others had been snapped like toothpicks. Even the steel-reinforced conrete poles that CUC had been upgrading to over the last year or so had snapped off near the base. Everywhere you looked were rats nests of tangled power lines, broken transformers and cross-trees from power poles. Some palm trees were still standing, others were uprooted, or just pushed right over onto their sides by the wind. It was a completely foreign land. You could not recognize anything. We nearly missed the turn to the Yacht Club because you just couldnt tell there was a road there until you were on top of it.

Going down the road from the main road into the yacht club, we were met by another 46' Newton dive boat sitting on the side of the road. It's anchor had played out and snagged on some mangrove roots, and that's what kept it from going any further. At the end of the driveway, you turn right and follow the road around to the left to the parking lot, slips for A, B, C and D dock and also the Texaco StarPort is there, too. From the road and extending back into the mangroves was a big multi-million dollar pile of scrap boats. The entire A dock had lifted up over the pilings (which are a good 12 feet above you at high tide) and floated across the parking lot and then deposited the boats (still tied into the slips!) in the mangroves. I counted 3 more Newton 46's in the pile, along with a bunch of other diving, snorkelling and fishing boats. A fourth Newton 46 was sitting in the parking lot, with two dock slips sitting on either side of it, still tied to the boat.

Looking out across the yacht basin, I saw the bow of a boat sticking up out of the water roughly where I last saw Cayman Bear a few days before. Turned out from a picture on one of the other websites that the bow was from one of the Pro 42 Jet Boats, and Cayman Bear was sitting in someone's backyard on the other side of the yacht club. Holiday Diver was nowhere to be seen. Whether it blew down a canal or ended up in someone's yard or just broke up and sank, no one knew. Later I learned that Holiday Diver had flipped over on it's top deck and was resting on the bottom of the yacht club basin. We walked down C dock (most of D dock was gone somewhere too). I noticed one of Treasure Island Divers' boats sitting up high out of the water on C dock and couldn't figure out why. When we got down there and went around the other side of it, we could see why. The boat's keel was sitting ON TOP of the flying bridge of another (I assume) Treasure Island Divers boat which was sitting on the bottom. Numerous other boats and sailboats were UNDER C dock as well. Champs III was a pontoon boat with 2 hulls. One of them was floating upside down just off of C dock, ,and part of the other pontoon with the lower half of an outboard engine was floating upside down in one of the slips on C dock. Smaller boats that had been trailered and pulled out of the water had all been blown into the back corner of the yacht club next to where A dock ended up.

We left the yacht club and headed south down West Bay Road and came upon huge mounds of sand. The one thing I noticed then, aside from the dunes in the road and the tangle of power lines was the northeast corner of the Courtyard Marriot was missing: stripped right down to the steel studs. A bulldozer had plowed a path through the dunes for cars to get through, and it reminded me of driving in Whistler in winter, but the big piles were sand rather than snow. Almost all of the oceanfront condos along Seven Mile Beach were damaged to one extent or another. Some were missing walls, some were missing roofs, and a couple were even worse. Beach Club Colony down across from the Hyatt took some extensive damage, their little wooden buildings looked like a pile of toothpicks or Lincoln Logs just piled up and left. We turned in at the Lone Star, who's front awning was all mashed and twisted up, making it look worse than it really was. Their new walk-in beer cooler out back had the walls washed out and there was a three-foot-deep pile of beer bottles in the back parking lot. Full beer bottles. We headed back to West Bay then, as Albie's friend was trying to conserve fuel as who knew when the gas stations would re-open, and if they had any uncontaminated fuel.

Matty and I jumped on the bikes later on and headed back through West Bay again. We stopped in and checked on Jo and the dogs, went back to my place again and then rode up to Dolphin Point to take a couple pictures, but we came back shortly afterwards because I had to make a 5:00 radio conference. We came back and puttered around a bit, I listened on the net at 7:00 for further instructions and was told that flights would be resuming the next day.

We made some dinner that night by chopping up the pieces of the fence that got knocked down and burning them in the barbecue and cooking up some meat that was defrosting in the freezer. After dinner, I sat down to start writing notes that I made this article from.

At 10:30PM I went outside and walked the permiter of the ranch, machete in hand (as we heard there was some nasty looting going on) and noticed just how dark the whole island was. There were so many stars out (and no moon) that it was difficult to make out even the most common constellations like the Big Dipper, Orion's Belt and Cassiopeia because there were so many hundreds, if not thousands of stars visible. The Milky Way was visible and stretched from horizon to horizon. The only lights were a couple red lights atop cell towers that I assume were running on emergency/generator power and a few candles in windows. Every now and then a flashlight/spotlight would shine up into the sky from somewhere in the neighbourhood which could have been CUC trucks, or just regular flashlights that were visible because it was so dark.

It was quiet, too. Aside from a few crickets, you could just make out the dull roar of large waves still battering Northwest Point, Seven Mile Beach and Georgetown. I may make it in to work tomorrow (Tues, Sept 14) and try to find an internet connection to post a "we're all ok message".

From what I heard today, the further south you go, the worse and worse the damage gets. A few people said it looked like a nuke had gone off in South Sound. Not a single green thing alive or building undamaged, some completely destroyed down to the foundations. We heard that Bodden Town took a severe beating, and that East End was pretty much wiped clean. Someone else heard that Rum Point got wiped out from behind, as the wind and waves came from the Northeast for the most part. Hopefully I'll know more tomorrow. We're hearing that power is going to take a few weeks to come back on, and when that happens, I'll have some video footage from Brad's camera and film developed to go along with this.

Hindsight: This was all written on September 13th, 2004. Looking back, a lot of what we heard was blown way out of proportion, but that's just human nature. South Sound and Bodden Town DID take a beating, East End had a hell of a time, but was not wiped clean, and Rum Point was not completely destroyed, either. I didn't get an internet connection until Thursday and was able to post a "we're all alive" message then. Our power was out for just over six weeks before it came back on. Water was out for about a week, and then started coming on for a few hours, twice a day. Enough to fill up buckets and barrels and have bucket showers, but still needed to be boiled before drinking. I have the footage from the camera, the only thing I had installed to capture with was Windows Movie Maker, so all my raw footage is now in WMV format. I haven't edited it yet or anything, mostly because Im lazy. When I do finally get around to it, I'll post parts of it. I have another week's worth of notes written up, and I'll get around to posting them over the next little while. For pictures with captions, click on Photo Albums over in the Navigation pane and select Hurricane Ivan from the menu.

Friday, November 26, 2004 5:27:02 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Hurricane#
Tuesday, November 30, 2004 10:56:34 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Thank you for sharing. Once G finally gets a website going for us, we'll share our photos and notes, too. :o)
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