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today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Tabba Khady (Moderator)
Date: September 05, 2009 09:14AM

It's an anniversary... not the kind we want to celebrate though! It is the 14th anniversary of Huricanne Luis.... and for those living on the island who went through this ordeal or not, we all know that for St Martin/St Maarten there was a "Before Luis" and an "After Luis"...

Kind Regards,


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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: September 05, 2009 10:36AM

you know, I was not on the island for the hurricane. I had gone to Boston to take my daughter to school. I saw Luis coming and told Dee I was coming home. he said no, don't bother..we can handle it. he was talking a different story when I got home after the storm.
I was stuck in Boston and didn't know whether my family, including my 91 year old father, was alive or dead for 2 days. I did nto sleep for days. I was up all night trying to get information.
Finally I got home after 4 days on the first plane in. I cried at what I saw on the way home from the airport and I continued crying for days.
and Dee shuddered every time the wind howled just a little bit.
It had to be hell living thorough that storm, but it was also hell living after it.


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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Neil Rooney (Moderator)
Date: September 05, 2009 01:43PM

Hurricane Luis 1995

Hurricane Luis was the "big one" for the Island of Saint Martin / Sint Maarten. September 05, 1995 is when SHE hit us. What was
then a category 4 and is now classified as a category 5. Hurricanes usually pass over an Island. Luis came to roost. The storm
stayed with us for some 38 hours.
Thanks to satellite television and stations like The Weather Channel and CNN and numerous web sites we were all well aware of the
approaching storm. The storm was nearly perfectly formed and tracking directly towards us. Luis. It was the two days prior to
land fall that had residents in a frenzy. Lumber yards, hardware stores, supermarkets, and petrol stations were all packed with
customers lined up out the doors. Plywood, nails, duct tape, candles, flash lights, batteries, canned foods, bottled water, ice,
beer, wine and booze. Get ready for the big hit.

My Honda Magna went to the dealer for "an oil change". My friend Mark tied no less than eight lines to his 38 foot trawler on the
dock in Oyster Pond. Mark, his girl friend Lilly and their Skipper Key dog Bandit stayed in my apartment on Simpson Bay Beach during the
storm. The building was all concrete and the landlord had boarded the sliding doors and windows. We were well stocked and waiting.
We tucked Lily's car into a corner, a wall in front and a fence on the side and placed a tarp over her. It was a two storey building, we were
on the top floor and ready.

First you feel the air pressure as it get lower, the sky gets darker and then we could actually "see" the storm coming at us. We endured
the howling winds, the bits of flora and fauna bouncing off the building, doors and windows flexing in and out. At one point the
sliding glass doors facing the Sea bowed to such an extent that we moved the TV cabinet, book cases and couch in front on them.
We were getting ready for the glass to flex just a bit too far. It did not, the apartment remained intact.

As we experienced a direct hit, midway through the storm the "eye" passed over us. It was now day two. The noise stopped. The wind
stopped. The ominous low pressure was still present, then the sun came out so we went out side to survey the damage.
The beach in front of my apartment had been about 60 feet deep, now it was about 30. Half of it gone. The trees in the neighborhood were
mostly damaged and there was all kinds of plant debris on one side of the building. We had about half an hour of this break in the
storm before the opposing eye wall came bearing down on us, time for round two.

The second half of the storm began with a greater punch than the first. Now we were experiencing the storm from the inside out. The
winds were now 180 degrees in direction from where they had been. Now my apartment door was in the lee of the wind so we could open
it and watch the action as opposed to being trapped in a dark room. It was incredible. The sea in front of my building was running North
to South at about 30 knots. It was like a raging river full of debris including whole trees. There had been almost no sand in front of
the buildings at the southeast end of Simpson Bay Beach, near the bridge, prior to the storm. Afterwards, and still in 2007 there is
a beach where there had been none.

When the storm finally passed we gladly piled out of the apartment to head to Oyster Pond to see how Mark's boat
was. We got into Lily's car and early in the morning and drove over Cay Hill and passed my current place of
employment, Ram's Wholesale. The entire roof was gone. Not a single sheet of zinc roofing was left. You
could see the goods stacked on the pallet racks. We continued to observe the damage as we entered Philipsburg.
As we approached the Great Salt Pond we saw looters pushing furniture out the missing windows of Carib
Home Center and landing two floors below in their parking lot. What a waste and a crime. We watched the
traffic on the roads grow as more people were venturing out to eyeball the destruction for themselves.

As we approached Oyster Pond we were silenced by the sheer magnitude of the destruction to the boats in the
water. Only a couple were floating. Most were sunk or blown ashore. Mark's boat was still tied to the three
mooring lines off of the bow and the stern lines were still tied to the dock. But there was a 30 odd foot sailboat rammed
into the port side stern of his Trawler which had pushed it enough that the starboard side hull was sitting on the
iron shore, razor rock. The boat was screwed. We quickly recovered as many of their personal effects as would
fit into lily's car. We now headed back over the hill to see if I could get my motorcycle out of the shop.

As we were driving up A.J.C. Brouwer's Road past Ram's we were amazed at the number of people looting the building.
Persons unknown had literally peeled the zinc sheets off of the front of the building and entered the premises.
We pulled the car over and got out. I headed to my office to retrieve my laptop computer and personal effects.
I was late but not that late. My computer and personal items were still in my desk but the laptops power supply
and cord were gone. Grabbing the laptop I then headed to the other set of offices in the rear of the building. I passed
what was now a full house of looters as I crossed through the Supermarket and warehouse sections of the building.
It was shocking to see what people were gathering in their arms, shopping carts and trolleys. I had some empathy for the
woman taking rice and diapers but not for the guy loading a cart with cases of scotch and cognac. I entered the rear offices
to find that they had already been stripped of computers and other desk top items. The only thing of value which I could find
to take with me was the rolodex on the owners desk.

The doors of the Harley Davidson dealer were open. I quickly grabbed my Honda Magna and headed back to Philipsburg
to the home of the owners of Ram's Wholesale, rolodex in my back pack. I passed by Ram's Wholesale which was now an
uncontrolled hoard of looters complete with politicians loading luxury cars with cases of liquor. Just down the road from Ram's
was Food Center. Their building seemed sound, some of the roof top cooling units appeared damaged, and was surrounded
by Dutch military troops. Traffic was getting worse as I passed through Philipsburg on my way to Point Blanche.
I explained what I had seen to the owners and agreed to return the next day and formulate a game plan.

Boy was I glad that I had a motorcycle that next day. Traffic was now at nearly a stand still as the stunned population was now out
en mass to view the Island wide destruction. I picked up the principle, Danny, at the family compound and told him to forget about
a car and to get on the back of my bike if we were to get anything accomplished. We headed to Ram's Wholesale first. Still
over run by looters. We now headed to the Police Station to get help to clear the looters from the building so that we could start
salvage operations. Ram's was the largest of the Islands wholesalers in the grocery, food and beverage business. We had
some eighty odd containers at the port full of basic commodities like rice, flour, sugar, water, cereal, powdered milk, cleaning
supplies, canned foods and more.

The Police were unable to give us any support as many officers own homes had been destroyed and family businesses were in disarray.
They had their own shortages and problems to deal with.
The Politicians had their hands full dealing with housing shortages, utility outages and other issues. Both Danny and I were exploring
ways to get the Dutch Military to intervene and lend us troops similar to what was happening at Food Center.

After comparing notes with Danny I headed to the main Government Building to see what I might be able to accomplish there while
Danny headed else where seeking help from other corners. I entered the building and headed directly upstairs to the end which
houses the Governors offices. As I had made my rounds seeking help I described myself a the Manager of Ram's Wholesale and
had not gotten anywhere. I now knocked on the door to the Lieutenant Governors Meeting Room which a Dutch Marine Officer

I introduced myself to the Major as the American owner of Ram's Wholesale, the Islands largest wholesaler. And I asked him for help.
I explained the dilemma of the looters and the need to clear the building and get our distribution business back up and running for the
good of the Island. I hit him with the number of trucks which we had, fork lifts and the volume of goods sitting in containers on the docks
which needed to be unloaded and distributed around the Island. He told me that I needed the Police not the Military. I told him that
the Police were unable to help us and compared us to Food Center which WAS being guarded by Military. Again he replied that he could
not help. What to do now.

I explained that I was from Washington, D.C., that the business was well insured, and that if I could not get someone to help
me then I would go home to DC. Home to explain on CNN that I couldn't get ANY help so I left the Island to itself. Please Help!
The Major told me to wait a couple of minutes as he closed the door on me. Less than two minutes later he reappeared with another
Marine Officer and told me that I had this officer and his squad at my disposal to clear the looters and keep them out. Help at last.

The Marines followed me on my motorcycle to Ram's. The Marines took their places on the perimeter of the property. The Officer
and couple of men and I took up a position in front of the building where one of the men yelled into a bull horn. He gave the crowd
two minutes to clear the building or be shot for looting. One minute warning. Thirty seconds. Twenty. They were leaving the building.
Ten seconds. Not quite clear. What to do. I suggested that they shoot at a pallet on the upper tear of the racks. A whole
pallet full of Heinz Tomato Juice 12/46oz cans. Bang! Bang! And Bang! I wasn't prepared for the LOUD report from the military
rifle. Who cared, tomato juice on the floor, the building was now clear of looters. And we had a squad of Marines to keep them out.

Fork lifts were buried under a mountain of wet cardboard and cases of goods which had fallen when the cases collapsed after getting
soaked by the rain. Whole isles were impassable and huge volumes of merchandise had been destroyed by both the rain and the looters.
It was a huge mess. Two of our trucks were laying on their sides and leaking fluids. There was a lot of work to be
done before we would be delivering any goods.

Rebuilding Post Luis

It took weeks for the local electricity company and telephone company to completely restore services. Many businesses
took weeks and in severe cases a year to rebuild. The main objective at Ram's Wholesale was to get back into the distribution
business. The retail operations were secondary. Ram's had purchased an existing building in the Cole Bay area in early 1995.
During some minor renovations of the building an accidental fire had burned the majority of the warehouse area. The office section
of the building had survived and while roofless the loading docks could still be used.

The first cargo ship to dock in Philipsburg after Luis contained the materials to rebuild the Cole Bay, Ex Daily Cash, warehouse.
A deal was quickly struck with a local Dutch based contractor to rebuild the structure. We had quickly occupied the offices.
We had electricity. We had no phones. The business had one line when the building was purchased and the new owners
had applied for three more from the local telephone company. I paid a visit to the telem offices in Philipsburg several days
after the passing of the storm and inquired about having our lines activated and connected. I was fortunate in finding an
understanding gentleman who understood our need to get the business back on it's feet. Quite shockingly the four telephone
lines were wired and operating the NEXT day. The main telephone cables in that area of the Island did not suffer any major damage
from the storm.

We had loading docks, trucks, offices, telephones and a fax machine. We were started. The trucks which had been blown over and
were leaking fluids were being repaired. Fork lifts, both electric and gas were unburied and brought over to the Cole Bay
warehouse. New electric fork lifts were ordered from Miami. New pallet type warehouse shelving was also ordered. And the
crew had arrived on site to start rebuilding the warehouse including a new 10,000 square foot mezzanine level.

It wasn't that efficient working out of forty foot containers but we were back in business. Several of the medium sized wholesalers
were also buying more whole container lots from us. A greater variety of goods was now being distributed to the smaller
neighborhood grocery stores. At least the basic foods and cleaning supplies were now readily available Island wide.

1600 Boats

Simpson Bay Lagoon is the largest safe haven for yachts in the Caribbean. Many Islands have their own "Hurricane Hole"
safe spots but the Lagoon in Sint Maarten is king. Unfortunately there is no organized mooring system on either the French or
Dutch side of the lagoon. Many yachts have substantial "hurricane" moorings in different parts of the lagoon but in September
1995 there were a reported 1600 boats at anchor in the Lagoon. Boats came from as far away as Nevis and Antigua, even the
Saint Kitt's Coast Guard sent their boat to Sint Maarten for Hurricane Luis.

The lack of a formal mooring system was a part of the problem during Luis. The locally based bare boat charter companies had
their fleets anchor in the Lagoon, some with only one or two anchors but no real hurricane strength moorings. When the storm
was at its peek, with 200 mile per hour wind gusts and 15 foot waves, these basic anchors could not hold. The lagoon became a giant
pinball machine. Boats dragged anchors and ran into a hornets nest of empty boats bashing each other into bits of flotsam and
jetsam. Even the well prepared sailor was at the mercy of these unmanned craft. One charter company alone had 68 boats at
anchor in the lagoon (Sunsail).

Some of the more well prepared sailors picked up anchor and headed to the eastern side of the lagoon near the landmark known
as the Witches Tit. The northern side of Mount Fortune has some dense mangroves while the southern side is muddy and shallow.
Better to be stuck in the mud that be sunk. And better to have a few scrapes from some mangrove than be on the bottom,

Even boats anchored in the Mullet Pond section of the Lagoon were dealt a blow. The Mullet Bay Golf Course was littered with
boats. The fairway of the first hole was now home to a forty-five foot catamaran. The eleventh hole green was not accessible due
to a boat blocking the golf cart path.

In the aftermath of the storm there were so many damaged boats, both power and sail, that several new "boat yards" were created
on both the French and Dutch sides of the Lagoon to deal with the salvaged hulks. Salvage operations continued for more than a year
to clear all of the wrecks.

Tony Baloney

One of the most surprising revelations in the weeks following Hurricane Luis was the insurance agent known as "Tony Baloney".
Tony had been in the insurance business on the Island for years, being a broker for several international insurers. The problem was
that Tony had not been passing all of the premiums, both new policy and renewals, to the issuers of the policies. This left dozens
of boat owners, home owners and even Dawn Beach Hotel without any insurance coverage in the wake of Hurricane Luis.

"Tony Baloney" fled the Island and was apprehended in New York and repatriated to the Island. The Coconut Telegraph reported that
after being convicted of insurance fraud on Sint Maarten, he was whisked away to England where he is incarcerated.

Just Another Ho Hum Day On D Planet

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: September 05, 2009 02:38PM

Damn, Neil, how long did it take you to type that?
that is an epistle LOL
hard to read in some ways because reading about it all is so painful.
however, the American owner of Ram's? now that cracked me up.
and it worked!
good for you!
Lots of sad stories to tell about that hurricane and lots of funny ones too.

and BTW, I absolutely remember that ass Tony Baloney
Dee almost insured with him but didn't. In fact Dee's boat had NO insurance.
and it ended up sitting upright on the Mullet Bay golf course. No damage but it took a crane to get it back in the water.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2009 07:02PM by Barbara1.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: pat (
Date: September 05, 2009 06:56PM


Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to share that with all of us.

We were scheduled to visit that fall but needless to say, the plans were cancelled and we were not able to see the damage first hand, but reading your description, and having seen the videos and spoken to so many who were there and lived it, I can only say, thank God we didn't. We dealt with the aftermath of hurricane Hugo and it's damage in South Carolina so believe me when I say, we truly were sympathetic to all the island was going through.

We returned to the island in April '96 and if we hadn't seen pictures and spoken to islanders we might have wondered what they'd been doing all that time and why hadn't they started to clean things up. This was seven months after the fact and the debris and destruction was still evident everywhere and still of gigantic proportions.

The fiberglass splinters and shards of what once used to be expensive private yachts were scattered everywhere, and of course, there was all the damage to so many of the different resorts, and most specifically to my beloved Mullet Bay Resort. And this doesn't even start to take into account the damage and destruction the main portion of the island, the part that serves the people who really live there day in and day out, experienced. Peoples lives were forever changed after that storm.

That the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin were able to recover and come back stronger, bigger and better is a true testament to them for sure.

All to often, as we hear of these impending storms, many will think first about the inconvenience of their vacation plans being disrupted and we often fail to consider the magnitude of the devestation these storms actually cause. So thank you so much for sharing your story, Neil - it was heart breaking to remember but much appreciated and I can only say with absolute sincerety, I pray for all the islands but most particularly for the good people of St. Maarten/St. Martin with every storm warning we hear about.


smiling smileysmiling smiley

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/2009 02:29PM by pat.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: pasnyder (
Date: September 10, 2009 08:06AM

Here's a few pictures from early 1996


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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: September 10, 2009 08:55AM

oh yes
I remember.
those are painful to watch
But thanks for posting them.


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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Sue (72.10.105.---)
Date: September 10, 2009 11:07AM

God bless to all the survivors of this horrific storm. When we visited in Feb,06, we could not believe what happened to this beautiful island and lovely people. Thank you, Neil, for sharing an insider's view of this storm.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: kim (
Date: September 11, 2009 12:41PM

Sue do you still have the video you let me borrow! Just amazing, I should have mad a copy of it on DVD, truly amazing what the island went through.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Sue (72.10.105.---)
Date: September 11, 2009 01:47PM

Kim- I do still have the video. Email me with your address if you want to borrow it again.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: OtherHalfA (12.16.111.---)
Date: September 12, 2009 05:26AM

Anyone want to see photos of the is;and on 9/6/95 snd the destruction in Luis's aftermath - wh the storm was just movingout. Or iss everyone a gawker on the highWAY TO AN ACCIDENT.

I will always remember the experience. I collected flowers before the storm hit, 'cause I knew they would all be gone in a day or two. I remember waking up with 6 inches of water on the floor an trying to stop it with sofa cushions; teaching Europeans how to flush a toilet putting water in the tank. The thrill of finding a mud bucket to bring that all important water back to fill the toilet every morning.

I remember celebrating my 42nd birthday, on September 6th, being allow out of our shelter and washing in rain water.

I remember members of the US military likening OB to the fall of Danang and Lize of Bikini being the only one able to open in the after math. (Warm beer, steamed rice and fried chx - we finally got to eat out on vaca, 10 Bucks).

I remember that money meant nothing - the important stuff - water and gasoline. I remember the French military working their arses off and the the Dutch Boys just hold rifles in their silly shorts.

The sensory experience of Luis will never be forgotten - freight train, whistles, building shakes. Unlike Neil, we never felt a true eye of the storm experience. Shelled up at the Belvedere in Cul de Sac, we really stayed in the eye wall for 6 to 8 hours. We got out for a few minutes in order to remove any garbage that could still endanger us.

In the aftermath. I can remember modelling new clothes I brought for the trip, eating K-Rations provided by the French Government and finally being allowed to go home.

An exerience that has changed our lives forever.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: September 12, 2009 08:40AM

yea, you were allowed to go home. We had to live here with the aftermath.
changed your lives forever?
you should live here and then you would truly know how it changed people's lives forever.
modeling new clothes were you?
while we were here dirty and muddy and trying to repair damage. clean the place up, and pulling water up from cisterns by hand and bathing out of buckets and having no electricity
you have no idea!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/2009 09:03AM by Barbara1.

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: annie (
Date: September 12, 2009 10:31AM

Other Half...modeled new clothes...for shame on you saying something like that. You did go home didn't you? You did not stay to clean up, did you? But you brought new clothes home to model..for shame on you.


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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: pat (
Date: September 12, 2009 12:53PM


Totally off topic but did you get my email from Thursday night?

smiling smileysmiling smiley

annie Wrote:
> Other Half...modeled new clothes...for shame on
> you saying something like that. You did go home
> didn't you? You did not stay to clean up, did
> you? But you brought new clothes home to
> model..for shame on you.
> Annie

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Re: today, 5th of September....
Posted by: annie (
Date: September 12, 2009 01:29PM

Pat, move off topic...believe it or not I just came on the computer to answer it!

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