I've been directly hit by close to two dozen hurricanes. Including most of the category fives in the last few decades. Even when I'm not living in a place that has hurricanes, somehow I manage to find high winds. We were in Copenhagen for a wind storm that paralyzed much of Europe. In Yuma, AZ I've been in dust storms with hurricane force winds. Perhaps I should have been more systematic about my writing but here's the notes I made from time to time.
Josť dropped by late in '99. The eye passed about 30 miles from us but it was not impressive. My belief that storms pass only in the night was supported.
In '98 Alex and I were fearfully looking at Category Five hurricane Georges that looked like it was going to be a direct hit. We boarded up the house, prepared the boat then rented a room in a local resort. Georges briefly fizzled then wiggled and St. Thomas was spared. We got more water on the floor from the ice melting in the cooler than from the storm.
In '96 I was surprised by Bertha while visiting St. John Carnival. I weathered the storm on the boat with less anchors than I like to think of without problems in Hurricane Hole, St. John. Fortunately there was little damage. With Bertha, I achieved the dubious distinction of surviving a direct "eye" hit on all three of the Virgin Islands. Bertha was my first daylight storm -- what a view!
In '95 things got a bit wild during Louise as I weathered the storm aboard in a partially exposed anchorage. I saved Ubi by jumping a number of times between her and another boat that had broken free and caught my anchor lines. Not what you want to be doing at night in hurricane winds and seas. Still, UBI was sawing through the other boat which would soon sink taking UBI and myself with her. The ultimate solution was to cut my own anchor lines along one side! This allowed the other boat to drift back to the beach and Ubi and myself to live. Cutting your own lines in the middle of a hurricane is not for the timid. I survived the rest of the night on fear and half my anchor lines! Talk about executive decisions!
While much more devastating to the islands, Marilyn was almost kind to me. I watched from the beach for that one (OK, I know that's stupid too). During Marilyn, about eight boats took turns grabbing on to Ubi and dragging her towards the beach. Ubi was within about five feet of the rocks when the eye hit, the wind reversed and she was pushed back out to deeper water very close to where she had started the storm. Whew! Ubi suffered some cosmetic but no structural damage.
After the storm, my access to news was better than most and I started a popular daily newsletter on local topics of interest. If you want to get a feel for storm recovery, read the newsletters I wrote after the storms. They are in WinWord 6 format.
As a young boy, during Camille, I was in my parent's house on the Long Beach Gulf Coast which exploded after the first floor filled with water. The portion of the second story that we were in flew about a hundred yards into a tree. We spent the night hugging someone else's roof after we crawled out the window. The roof was not attached to a house and was actually floating with a lot of other wreckage on about a twenty foot storm surge. There was much stuff flying in the wind.
Hugo on St. Thomas was not as scary. I lost my boat that I was living on but there were many opportunities for places to live for a young man who was used to living off-the-grid. A loan from FEMA eventually replaced the boat. It took close to nine months for power to be restored. The lady I was dating was graceful to provide shelter to a person who could provide running water with just the use of a twelve volt battery and a pump and a siphon from a neighbor's cistern up the hill. Perhaps it helps that I can cook lasagna on a gas grill.
You would think I would know to get out of the wind!