Re: OK. I am starting a new thread on "back in the day" stories
Date: May 16, 2008 04:34PM
Well Barbara, I gues if you want the back in the days and drag up that picture again, I guess it's only fair I drag up the Luis stry again.
For those of you who've been around here long enough; move along there's nothing new to see. But some of the newer members may enjoy it. By the way, you may want to go for a snack and a drink first.
Itâ€™s An Adventure:
OK, I admit it. Iâ€™m a weather nut. This was to be the first trip to St Martin on our own after having gone with friends in â€™94. It was spring and in planning I suggested being there for Janeâ€™s birthday. So happens itâ€™s in September. We talked about hurricanes, but I pointed out that there hadnâ€™t been many the past few years and what was the chance that a hurricane would hit that little dot of land the exact week we were there?
As the end of August came around, the Weather Channel was talking about a â€œclassicâ€ hurricane forming off the coast of Africa. But we had the plans made and the trip was paid for with no cancellation insurance and it was still on a steady course for Guadeloupe. Still, when we got to the airport, we talked with the rep from the charter company about it and she said â€œHurricanes arenâ€™t that bad. Think of it as an adventure.â€
And Neither Do Pigs:
So off we went and started our adventure. I guess the first indication that something was up was when we checked into The Golden Tulip on Little Key Bay. Right in the lobby by the check-in desk was a large Caribbean map with a plot of the hurricane track. Ainâ€™t that nice of them? So we checked in and went to the room for only to find our next omen. On the coffee table with all of the welcome literature was a letter suggesting everyone attend a briefing that afternoon in the dining room. The meeting was fairly general just informing the guests about the storm and suggesting that they keep in touch with the front desk and attend another meeting in the morning.
Evening came and we decided to go to dinner. Back in the days, there was no internet for dining recommendations and all we had to rely on were the brochures at the airport. We had passed a Vietnamese restaurant that was in the Belvedere right by there. We added that as a must visit (yeah, right), but was in the mood for Creole.
We then got in the car and headed to Colombier for La Rhumerie. Unfortunately, that was the night they are closed. So back in the car and into Marigot to see what we could find. Unfortunately, the town was pretty much boarded up at that time and the restaurants that you drove by were mostly closed. So on further to check out La Belle Creole. Looked good in the brochures. We were in luck as it was open and we walked right up and checked the menu. Thirty to forty dollars for entrees!!!! Back in the car and onto Maho. If we knew it was the only night out we would have, we would have stayed.
Finally got to Maho and settled in for dinner at The Rum Boat. Didnâ€™t care what it was like since weâ€™d been driving for an hour. Had a good meal and talked with the waiter about the hurricane. â€œDonâ€™t worryâ€ he said, â€œcars donâ€™t fly.â€ Yeah right buddy, tell me another one.
Thereâ€™s Good News And Bad News:
The next morning we had breakfast and attended the meeting in the dining room. By that time, it was becoming obvious that the island would definitely be impacted. They had a question and answer session as there were many guests who had never experienced a hurricane. A question was posed as to whether it gets cold because of all the wind. We were told that we would be moved to The Belvedere since it was inland a little further and was hurricane proof. We would also have to double up because there werenâ€™t enough rooms. We asked a German couple that was in the cabin next to us if they wanted to join us. We were told to stay close since it wasnâ€™t sure when we would move.
We listened to the radio for updates. There was an announcement that the government had good news and bad news. The bad news was that the island would be hit directly. The good news was that the garbage strike was over and to put out everything you could. We watched the parade of garbage trucks roll past Cul De Sac and feed the St Martin volcano.
That evening, we were moved to the Belvedere. Each couple was given a garbage bag with water, fruit and bread as staples. We moved into our room and noticed that the windows werenâ€™t taped and there was only one bed. Notifying maintenance, they said no problem and would get back to us.
In the meantime, Jane went out to pick some flowers figuring there would be nothing left the next day. We turned on the TV and watched the French reports. That wasnâ€™t a good idea since we couldnâ€™t understand French and all we could make out was St Martin, St Martin. Not a good sign. At that point, a gust of wind blew up and since the slider was open, the glass of flowers spilled over and fried the TV. Oh well.
Maintenance came back with a roll of one inch masking tape for the sliders and this cheesy old mattress. â€œBut madam, itâ€™s a perfect mattress!â€ Yeah, right.
If That Phone Rings Again:
The mattress proved OK, at least better than sleeping on the tile floor and we had a good nightâ€™s sleep. We awoke the next morning and looked outside. This isnâ€™t bad, we can handle this.
At that point, the phone rang. It was the manager of the Tulip giving people an update. We told him things were good and we could handle it. It was at that point he told us itâ€™s still only the tropical force winds, the hurricane hadnâ€™t started yet and itâ€™s been about 12 hours already.
Well, about every two hours he would call again and let us know the progress. â€œOK, now itâ€™s the hurricane force winds.â€ â€œOK, now itâ€™s going to start getting bad.â€ â€œOK, now itâ€™s really going to get bad.â€ â€œOK, the eye may pass and we can get outside for 5 minutes or so and then it will really, really get bad.â€ I swear if the phone rang again, it would have gone through the wall into the next room. Fortunately, the phones went dead after that.
The Best Birthday Present:
Being cooped up in the room for 36 hours can help you observe some changes in behavior. When the storm was starting and a gust would occur, everyone would joke â€œThat was a big one.â€ Weâ€™d gather around the slider and watch what was happening outside. Weâ€™d watch the slider bow in and out with the wind. By the end, people were gathered on the other side of the room and said nothing.
What started out as an experience became mental torture. Between having to listen to the constant noise as the wind forced its way through the openings around windows and doors, having the three story concrete building shake when the gusts slammed into the side and hearing undefined noises outside and not being able to see what it was. The most uncertain part was when we heard voices outside yelling â€œAllez, allezâ€ Do we go? Did it mean us? If we had to go, where would we go?
Needless to say, it was a fitful nightâ€™s sleep and we slept mostly because of mental fatigue. As it turned out, the mattress really was perfect. Jane woke up and figured she had drooled a lot since the pillow was wet. That was probably because there was 3 to 4 inches of water covering the floor. Fortunately the mattress was about 5 inches thick.
Dawn finally came. I almost wished it wouldnâ€™t since it meant that we could see outside. I couldnâ€™t imagine how anything could be left standing. When it did get light, we saw that there really were things still standing, but nothing was even close to perfect. But in all, Jane got one of the best birthday presents ever. We finally got to go outside.
Just A Little More Rain Please
By early afternoon, management had checked the Tulip and deemed it was safe enough to go back. In reality it was safe, although there was no lobby, no dining room, no water and no power. Most of the individual units were still inhabitable; although when I noticed that the slider on the unit connected to us had completely blown in ripping off the frame with it, I was thankful we had been moved.
We were given clean sheets, clean towels and went to change the bed and mop the floor so we would have a place to stay.
Trying to plan ahead, I had two priorities. The first was to fill the tub with whatever water I could find. I grabbed the trash can and started making trips back and forth to the pool. It would be a long day. But on one trip, I struck gold. I found an empty joint compound bucket. A bigger haul and a handle!!!!!
My next priority then became more important after all that hauling; getting clean. Fortunately, the last of the rain bands were still going by. That gave me the idea to grab soap and shampoo and shower under the eaves as it ran off. In theory itâ€™s great. The only problem being by the time I got all lathered up, the rain stopped and the sun came out. But luck was on my side as the very last rain band came through about 30 minutes later.
One For All And All For One; Or Is That Every Man For Himself
The days after the hurricane proved to be an interesting study of people and how they react to adversity. In general, the island population was still so calm. This despite the fact that there was nothing left of infrastructure and authority. Still there was no panic, no wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth.
I had taken one trip to the Texaco station in Cul De Sac to buy what supplies I could. The checkout line was fairly long with people buying what they could. When I got in line, there was a woman who had been waiting with a basket full of goods. She just kept telling each of the tourists who got in line to go in front of her since she had no need to rush anymore, there was nothing else to do.
We also took a ride to Orient with the German couple because we heard that Bikini was open. It was the only restaurant open in the area. When I went to pay and asked how much, the guy asked me if I had gas in the car. He said that he had no need for money, everyone had money. He needed gas. He would trade a meal for a gallon of gas. Unfortunately, the car had an anti-siphoning device.
The resort that we were in was the type that has individual units spread out across the grounds rather that a single building. Under normal circumstances you would go to eat during the posted hours that the restaurant was open or go out to eat.
Now since that resort had no power and a limited stock of groceries, meals were provided when they could manage it. To inform the guests that a meal was almost ready to be served, they would drive around the grounds in a little golf cart beeping the horn.
One evening we were sitting around the central building which also housed the kitchen and dining room when a van drove in from a local bakery. As he pulled up to the building and started beeping the horn. The manager came running out waving his arms trying to make him stop. Sure enough in a couple of minutes streams of people were walking from their units heading for their next meal.
Are You Talking To Me?
The biggest difference we noted was in how it seemed that different nationalities reacted to the situation. While not wanting to generalize, the differences were very apparent.
The Germans seemed to be the most stoic. The few that were there gathered to themselves and kept the strong outward appearance of defiance. The French also kept to themselves, but did so in a much quieter fashion, sort of just accepting the situation. The Dutch maintained the best attitude. They mingled with people during the day and at night would still have a bottle of wine with whatever meal could be scrapped up. They still made dinners an occasion and made the best of the situation.
The Americans were a split group. On the one hand, they seemed to be the ones most willing to help in whatever way that they could. Offering to run errands and clean up what they could. But there was also a contrasting group that did nothing but complain. There were still nightly meetings where management would give updates to the guests on what was happening. Now remember the condition of the Tulip after the storm. During one of these meetings, one individual in a group spoke up and said something to the effect that he was speaking for all Americans and that he had stayed in lots of hotels and complained about the situation and that management of the hotel only wanted to get rid of us. Well, say duh-huh Bubba.
By Thursday however, things changed. At that nightâ€™s meeting, the Tulipâ€™s manager introduced a lieutenant from the French army. The lieutenant made an announcement that they had taken control of all of the hotels. He then looked at the individual who had made the previous statement. He told him he understood that he had some complaints and if he had anymore complaints that he they would now have to be directed to him. We now had one happy camper.
Look At This Place
Growing up you always saw movies about people joining the French foreign legion and fighting. I could never figure out why someone would do that. On Friday night, the night before we were to leave, I discovered why. Since it was the last night for everyone, the doors to the liquor cabinet were thrown open and the beer and wine were on the house.
They planned a special meal by moving all of the tables outside near the pool. Needless to say, the meals during the week had steadily gone downhill. From some excellent tuna steaks the first night to soapy scrambled eggs and steamed steak and plastic forks and knives. Ever try to cut shoe leather with a plastic knife????
The French army came trough with k-rations for the crowd. Now this is food tres bon!!!! An assortment of pates and cheeses, Swiss chocolates and an entrÃ©e of spaghetti bolognaise. There was just one small problem. Because they were k-rations, they all had to be heated first. None of us at the table ever had experience with those little sternos. After a brief struggle we finally got them lit and started heating the meals. This was interesting, but as a lesson in life, you never put a hot sterno with a live flame on a plastic coated table.
When the first one started to ignite, we laughed and put it out. When more started to ignite, we started to panic putting out the flames before the table got too bad. At that point, one of the French soldiers came over and laughed exclaiming; â€œWhat youâ€™re worried about the table? Look at this place. Itâ€™s already trashed.â€
Saturday finally came and it was time to leave. During the week, they had been moving families whose houses had been destroyed into the empty units. We got our plastic bag and filled it with the leftover candles, water, juices and food. We took the bag to one of the units that had a family with two small boys.
We knocked on the door and the woman answered. We told her that we were leaving and handed her the bag filled with the supplies. â€œWhat is this Christmas?â€ she asked? The son and daughter came over and started looking in the bag. As we were walking away, the little boy reached in and pulled out a candy bar. He looked up with a smile â€œAu revoirâ€ he said.
What Do You Have To Declare?
The ride to the airport was pretty depressing. We had been forewarned of this by someone who had been in the Army. He said that when we leave we would know what Vietnam looked like when the troops departed. It did look like a war zone. There wasnâ€™t any structure that was left totally intact. Yet people were busy going around collecting whatever scraps they found to repair walls and roofs. The island spirit remained intact.
The airport was another scene of co-operation. The flights that were leaving were on a first-come first-served basis. If you were going on USAir, you just got in line and waited until you got to the front. We were fortunate that since we came on a charter, when the plane came it was just for us and any others until it was full.
What was impressive is that most people came with water. As each person go to the front of the line, they simply handed off the water to people who were still waiting. While there were reports of problems the first day that planes were leaving, everyone in the crowd maintained a good attitude and there was plenty of socializing and joking.
You could tell the crew on the flight was very nervous. Even though flights were non-smoking, butts were found in the ashtrays. Also, they were very much at a loss for words not knowing what to say or do. Movie time came and they passed out the headphones asking for the usual fee. After a couple of minutes, they came running back up the aisle, â€œno, theyâ€™re free; theyâ€™re free.â€
It came time to fill out the usual customs declarations of the value of the goods we were bringing back. In all honesty, I filled out the card; declaring -$30.00.
Name Hurricane Luis
Dates 4 September & 5 September 1995
Size of Storm 700 miles across
Size of Eye 35 miles across
Duration of Tropical Storm Force Winds (35 mph +) 36 hours
Duration of Hurricane Force Winds (74 mph +) 24 hours
Duration of EyeWall Winds (120 â€“ 140 mph) 5 hours
Highest Wind Gust 160 mph