Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Friday, September 9, 2005

A year ago today, I was alone in my apartment. My girlfriend (at the time), HazMat Jenny was away on vacation visiting her parents and we were battening down the hatches in preparation for a close brush with Hurricane Ivan. I spent the evening of the 9th packing: packing away things in garbage bags, moving things downstairs because I was worried about the roof, then moving it upstairs because I was worried about flooding, and ultimately moving it all back downstairs again. Our apartment building is below the road level. I used a laser pointer to see exactly where the road's high point was on our building, and it was just about an inch over the windowsills, or about three feet up the building. If waves came across the street, they would pool up in our parking lot (which had a tendency to flood ankle deep in a hard rain) so my fears were not unfounded. I had most of the electronic-type stuff unplugged and up off the floor, had the cooler out and ready to go, the fridge mostly emptied, and a lot of my computer stuff packed away. I put Jenny's jewelery in a scuba mask box and made room in my pelican case for her jewellery and her photo album, next to my laptop, a wireless access point and my packet8 ATA.

Friday the 10th I got up and went to work and finished ticking off the preparedness items there: bagging up computers, unplugging things and getting them off the floor, preparing the last data backup before we sent it off-island and getting ready to down the servers at 3pm. I got home from work early around 4:00 and found a bee-hive of activity going on at the complex. Seb had managed to “acquire” some plywood from somewhere and he and I, Nat, Junior, and this guy Steve who lived in one of the apts and was a construction foreman at the Rit Carlton measured, cut and boarded up all our windows. The property managers came by and left a letter stating that we should bring in plants and outdoor furniture and make sure all windows and doors were securely locked. If it becomes a Cat 3 or stronger, then evacuation was mandatory and they would nt be held responsible for anything at all. Nice of them, isn't it? No boards or anything, just a “get out, and if anything happens, too bad”

I woke up Saturday morning and to my horror saw what would become (in)famously known as the Westward Wobble. Ivan did not make landfall in Jamaica and lost strength as it cut across the mountains, but instead skirted south of Jamaica and put him poised for a direct strike on Grand Cayman. This 165mph monster, 350 miles across of Tropical Storm force winds was “the big one” always talked but always never really expected. As Saturday wore on, it became clear that this WAS the worst-case scenario. We decided to abandon Oceanside Plantation Saturday afternoon and made alternate plans to ride out the storm. I went to my old house, The Ranch, and settled in with John, Matty, Joanne & the dogs, Albert, Dusty & Rebecca.

I stayed online til about 10:00 that night when the power went out for what would turn out to be six weeks. I had the wireless AP set up and was chatting and broadcasting the webcam and making numerous posts on the website until the power went out. I called my parents (long distance from my cell phone, but I didn't really care how much it cost at that point) every couple hours through the night to let them know that we were still alive. Every time I called I said “I think this is the worst of it now”. Little did we know that Ivan had slowed down to 8mph and was supposed to pass about 8 miles southwest of George Town LATER ON Sunday morning.

At the risk of repeating myself, you can go back and read the stuff I posted the following week when I managed to get back online with a borrowed laptop, a Nera Satcom base station and a hacked-together serial cable. This post describes what it was like Saturday night, and this one is Sunday.

With the first anniversary this weekend, the Cayman Compass printed a long article in the paper today, Friday. It was probably the longest article I've ever seen in the Compass, it snaked it's way through and around photos and other stories for about six or seven pages. It was very well written, and a couple of times while reading it at lunch today I got goosebumps as my mind replayed that weekend. The story in the Compass today was much better than the TV show that was broadcast a couple nights ago on the local channel CITN. Kind of like the difference between CNN and Fox's “Fair and Balanced” BS.

This week, aside from more gut-wrenching photos and stories coming out of the Gulf Coast, there was a satelite image on NOAA's site showing Maria, Nate and Ophelia all in the same frame. Three tropical cyclones in one frame. Unbelievable. The last time I saw three cyclones in one picture was a fake one in $imdb(The Day After Tomorrow). According to NOAA, there's nothing else out there at the moment. We've had two near-misses already this year, Dennis & Emily back in July, but hey, September 1 is only halfway through 2005's hurricane season. Things are just getting warmed up.

Friday, September 9, 2005 4:47:52 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Hurricane | Links#
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