Hurricane Matthew

p4880327I had my blog post for tomorrow half-written; I’ve been taking photos and preparing it all week but then Matthew came into the equation. How could I write about the tranquility of our autumn in France when lives have already been lost and people are suffering so greatly from the devastation caused by a hurricane churning it’s way slowly northwards through the Caribbean and into the Bahamas? The answer – I couldn’t – we have many friends in the islands and many in Florida, and although we may not be there we’re thinking of you all a lot right now.

At the end of the 1990’s we lived for a short time in the Caribbean; Izzi was just a toddler when we were visited by Louis, a category 4 hurricane. I remember the utter calm before the storm; all was silent and there was not a breath of wind; all that could be heard for miles around was the sound of hammers, furiously banging in nails to secure plywood over windows. Roddy was racing between our home and the little harbour, helping a friend called Mikey at his very local beach-bar to secure his property as best as anyone can, but we knew everything in the bay would take an enormous battering. We had taken our boat to the neighbouring island of St Martin a few days previously where it was to ride out the weather on the ‘hard’ at a supposedly safe marina. Our rented house had a tin roof and so we decamped to stay with friends who had a daughter the same age as Izzi. They were also temporary residents but their rented accommodation had a concrete roof and would be far safer. We put all our furniture in the centre of the house in a huge pile under a dozen tarpaulins and drove away hoping for the best. Sally, I know you remember this just as well as I do.

Roddy, Izzi and I shared a king-sized bed, and we were awoken during the night as the makeshift plywood shutters started to slam against the windows with great violence and intensity. We did our best to keep the toddlers entertained in the fierce heat with no electricity. Eventually Louis moved on, but the island had been completely devastated; our favourite beachside restaurants had been obliterated in the eye of the storm. Poor St Martin across the water had fared even worse.

In 2009 we were again visited by a hurricane in France. Klaus made landfall near Bordeaux, with winds averaging 120mph. Again the night before was eerily quiet, but this time no one knew what was coming and no one was prepared. We were awoken by all the children (by now there were five of them!) as they came running into our bedroom at dawn, excitedly shrieking that the power had gone out. As Roddy and I came fully awake we realised the windows were rattling, shutters were banging on their hooks and there was the sound of breaking branches from the garden. We had no idea what was truly happening and no idea of what was to come. Structurally, we lost eight trees and a few roof tiles but nothing more. However we also had no power for eight days and no water for the first two of those. We had no heating without electricity apart from the open fire,  so we all slept together, seven of us in one room for warmth. For days and weeks afterwards the sound of chainsaws could be heard through the south of France as people started to clear up their gardens. The storm barrelled on down alongside the Pyrenees and eastwards across southern France causing mass destruction in its path.

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As we watch from afar, Matthew creeping forward, we pray for the safety of everyone in the islands and all the way up the eastern coast of the USA.  xxx

 

85 thoughts on “Hurricane Matthew

  • What a VERY SPECIAL LADY you are Susan. Thank you for thoughtful and compassionate concern for those in the path of Mathew. How lucky we as readers have the wonderful fortune to have such a kind person who is concerned for others.❤️ You are truly an Inspiration in so many ways to your followers! 😘

    • Thank you so much, I am quite lost for words. I just feel for so many people and it’s a big storm. I am not sure if you are affected by it, in it’s path, if you are stay safe my friend. Susan xx

  • I totally agree with the above comment, what a wonderful role model you are to your children and all of your readers,. I so wish I could know you in person x

  • We’re all shuttered up here in Tequesta, supplies are in, spare batteries, tub will be filled with water – we are ready! Thank you for your heartfelt concern, you are a real gem.

  • Amen to that, Susan. Bad weather is not fun for us here in the UK either, and god knows I’ve spent many an hour listening to the hiss of angry water on the shingle just outside the door; but that monster the Atlantic has spawned looks as though is will be bad news for a whole coastful of people. I don’t know anyone on the blog, but if any of you are in its path you have my sympathy and all the courage I can send you. May whatever or whoever you worship keep you safe as possible.

  • I’ve never experienced a hurricane, but will be thinking of all my friends here. We fly to London tonight from MIA. When we remodeled our house, we had all hurricane proof windows and doors installed, so we’re pretty confident that we don’t have to worry. My heart goes out to the people of Haiti and Cuba, who aren’t so fortunate. What terrible devastation.

    • I agree Syliva, it’s awful. In all the time we lived in Florida we didn’t have one either, just a tropical storm. With modern house built to the latest codes it’s not so bad, but the lack of electricity, even with a generator can be a pain and I know after Wilma a lot of people had no water and could not use the bathroom for days, that’s kind of tough! Thank goodness your flight out of MIA is tonight and not tomorrow! Are you then connecting straight on to SA? Have a wonderful trip.xx

  • I experienced a couple of hurricanes when I lived in Hollywood, Florida when I was in elementary school. It was so windy before it hit that I would walk my bike against the wind and then coast very fast down the street and do it again. I remember my dad prepping the house and covering all the windows. Then we put our mattresses on the hall floor and tried to sleep while my parents stayed up, but I couldn’t sleep. When the eye of the storm hit it was so eerily calm and my dad opened the front door and it was so beautiful, but then the winds started back up. The next morning we rode around looking at all the damage. Our house had little damage. I pray for those in the path of this storm, too.

    • Wow, some kids find it exciting and others terrifying. I know when we had a tropical storm in FL, three of ours thought it was great fun, no school, endless rain etc., the other two were utterly terrified just looking out of the window. We have friends in Hollywood, no doubt shuttering up as we speak. It’s the people in the trailer parks that I fear for because they just can’t stand up to a storm like this. Xx

  • My prayers are with anyone who will be touched by this hurricane. Only those who have lived through such storms can know how frightening and dangerous they can be.

  • our prayers are with all of our fellow neighbors, no matter how far away they are. I do remember the storm of 2009 that hit France. Our friends in the Limousin lost many trees but luckily little damage to their home and out buildings.

    • Our prayers are indeed with everyone. The storm of 2009 was awful. I remember we had had friends to dinner, no one was aware there was a storm coming and as we stood outside saying goodbye we all commented on how calm and still it was and how incredibly warm it was for a winter’s night. Little did we know that in a few hours we would be pounded by a severe storm. xx

  • I lived in North Carolina for 48 years and experienced many hurricanes. The worst one was Hazel in 1954. We took a direct hit and there was untold damage. My parents had just built a new house and the pressure was so great that the nails in the house were all pulled out and inch or so. Our school failed to let us out in time and so the school bus was caught out in it. We stopped at a small country store to get help. Inside we could feel the floor rising up and men held the windows to keep them from falling in. I saw roof tops flying by followed by buildings. There were so many trees in the highway that it took us a week to go check on my grandmother who had remained safe in her basement. Praise the Lord! Will never forget it. Yes praying for safety for everyone in Matthews path.

    • Oh my goodness Alice, what an ordeal, I suppose back then forecasting was nowhere near as good as it is now. I cannot imagine you not being allowed out of school in time and holding the windows up by hand. I am not surprised you have never forgotten it. Nowadays buildings are built to code and things are much better, but there are still old houses and trailers that cannot withstand these storms, I pray for all of those people. Susan xx

    • Alice, Susan directed me to your comment which I had missed. That, to a tame English girl like me, is an overwhelming story. I cannot imagine what it must have been like. Your description of Hazel has me covered in goosebumps and I am so glad that despite the carnage you were all (including Granny) safe and well. Thank you for sharing and of course, I too am hoping that Angry Matthew does not take too many more as he cuts his furious swathe up the coast.

      • Unimaginable. And in my husband’s lifetime. He was really shocked when I showed him Alice’s story. Its so easy to overlook those things out of ignorance.

      • It is quite unimaginable, Most of the children of our friends are of an age when they don’t really remember the last hurricane to hit Florida. This is therefore the first time for many and it’s a big one. xx

      • Not the way to learn. Not at all. I do hope all will come through at least uninjured and still standing. Sadly there will be carnage all around. And it will etch on the minds of those children and they will never be quite the same again. xx

      • When we lived in the Caribbean with Izzi as a toddler, the family we went to stay with, whom I talked about in the post, also had a toddler. After we left, they stayed another year and had another major hurricane, another cat 4. Their daughter was about 3 by then, for years she drew nothing but big black circles with an eye in the middle, it really did traumatise her. They are so so scary.xx

      • All those children …. all those black circles with an eye in the middle. Mother Nature is not to be messed with and sadly she sometimes decides she’s going to exercise her strength in the most profound of ways. xx

      • She does indeed and one has to take her seriously. Fortunately it passed by where we used to live with just a lot of wind but no damage, the Bahamas on the other hand are another story, Grand Bahama and Freeport seem to have been particularly badly hit. Hope it stays just offshore and doesn’t make landfall in Jacksonville. Xx

      • My husband has a secondary job in France connected to the Lightning Research Laboratory for France. He has spent much time in Oklahoma and West Texas following the path of storms. Of course a Hurricane is a different flavour to a Twister but the same rules apply. There are no rules that we can make, the storm makes them all and the storm has a fickle will which will change with no notice. Whether or not Matthew stays off shore will be entirely in his own power and that power as the poor people of the Bahamas have found at first hand is immense and uncontrollable. I bleed for them. Of course I am relieved that your own people are safe. That goes without saying. And the fearful last few days will have taken their own toll despite a less than entirely devastating outcome. Xx

  • I lived in Nassau for years before we moved to California last February. We had many hurricanes, we knew the routine off by heart. Have woken this morning early and I can’t stop thinking of our dear island friends

  • A wonderful and compassionate piece of writing that I hope will mean much to those effected but also educate those who have never experienced the true nature of fearsome weather. As an English person, I am, of course obsessed with weather. It is our national sport n’est pas? Talking about and moaning about the weather. But real Hurricanes like Matthew, real winter storms like those experienced in Minnesota every year, real drought like those experiences in Africa real Monsoon – they are the extremes and a piece like this written from the inside does much to put into perspective what ordinary people are dealing with as they just live life.

    • It’s so true, we English are totally obsessed with the weather! It is after all our go to topic of conversation! Extremes in weather are terrifying and I would imagine they were even more so decades ago before modern technology and satellite systems could tell us what was happening. Have a read of a comment by a lady called Alice, only a few comments earlier than yours, her story of hurricane Hazel in 1954 is unbelievable, can you imagine not being let out of school in time nowadays? Schools in Florida were closed today, nearly 48 hours in advance so people could prepare. xx

      • Thank you – I’ve read Alice’s comment now and struggle to begin to imagine what it must have been like. Or for that matter what it is like for all the people who might be effected and those that have been already by Angry Matthew. xx

      • At least nowadays there is plenty of warning, people for the most part are ready which saves a great many lives. All of our friends are ready, a lot of our friends have horses and some have taken them across the State to safety already, others are not able to do that, so the horses have to remain in boarded up stables, imagine how terrified they must be. As you say, as Brits, we know nothing of this, we get storms, we get severe gales but really nothing like this.

      • Preparation is key but one thing that I learned quickly here is that the weather forecasters have a habit of getting it wrong. I was prepared for 3 major winter storms in January and had none. Correction – we had one and it wasn’t forecast! I think all the poor people in the path of this monster can do is what they are doing and assume the worst. As for the horses and other animals …. I can’t bear to think of it. They must be beyond terrified. Its unthinkable really.

      • Everyone we have spoken to is prepared, we have seen so many photos from friends today, already Florida looks like a ghost town with everywhere shuttered up. The biggest evacuation imaginable. Schools our children attended are temporary hurricane shelters, I feel as if we are living it here, we know every area so well. Now we just pray for everyone xx

      • We have been watching West Palm TV on the internet this evening, it’s super scary and the photos our friends have been putting on the internet. Millie has been chatting to her friends in FL all evening, no one knows what will happen. Let’s just pray that it doesn’t turn around as it is forecast to and slam straight back into them for a second time. xx

      • I think it is impossible to predict the actual course the storm will take. They really do seem to have their own mind and one really does have to try and stay positive that this will be a once only for any one community. You might like to go to my blog today … I hope you might be pleased xx

      • Positive news from friends just coming in, let’s just keep our fingers crossed as it moves on up the coast and let’s hope it doesn’t do as predicted and turn around and slam straight back into the Bahamas again as a TS. Going over to your blog now xx

  • We have watched on the news the devastation so far, I cannot comprehend living through something like this, I share your thoughts, stay safe everyone

    • We have watched on the news too and today we have spoken to friends in Florida, they are all prepared, shutters in place, extra food and water in the house, now they are just waiting. xx

    • I hope it remains that way for you too, it is quite scary. We have spoken to friends in Florida today, they are all prepared well in advance. Shutters over all the windows, plenty of food and water. Now they just sit and wait. xx

  • Thank you for thinking of us in Florida and those along the coast. I’m in Tampa and they are just projecting winds for us; my son in in college in Orlando and it sounds like even that far inland they might experience some greater impact. Our office in the Miami area closed today to let employees prepare their homes as best they could. That’s the thing about hurricanes. You know they are coming and you have some time to prepare, but there’s only so much you can do against their strength.

    • I always compared child birth to hurricanes! You know they are coming, there is nothing you can do, you know they are going to be awful and you know they will come to an end! My prayers are with everyone xx

  • You are one of the world’s givers I can see. There are givers and takers, you give endlessly and this just proves it, always you are thinking of someone else, putting others before you. I too pray for everyone in the path of this hurricane. May everyone stay safe.

  • What a heartfelt post, Susan. Having grown up on Long Island, I too experienced hurricanes. In fact Late Summer through the Fall was hurricane season…storms were tracked and talked about all the time. For any big storm, my father would be called in to work and mom was left to secure the house and the kids. The storms always seemed to hit in the dead of night…we’d have candles ready and bath tubs filled with water. Trees would come down around us, but I always felt safe. Mom managed to make it all an adventure so, for me, hurricanes were something to respect but not fear. Prepare first, wait out the storm, and be good to one another.

    • Isn’t that the best thing, to feel safe, your mother did the most wonderful job, I am sure at times she must have been worried. Good preparation is the key and at least with hurricanes there is plenty of warning unlike with tornados. Now as you say everyone is just waiting it out. Xx

  • Never been in a hurricane, but been close enough to shore that we got the winds and rains for a day. That was no joke. I hope this one passes swiftly and bothers only tiles and trees.

  • So hope the beast downgrades before too much damage occurs! Going thru’ something like this can virtually alter one’s life . . . Lived in a community in semi -tropical north of the state – we had our few every cyclone season and one remembers every detail . . . but recall two women I befriended who had left Darwin after the 1974 ‘Tracy’ with its 240 km winds and over 70 dead. They were so affected they moved house and home to where we lived and every time a storm brewed on the horizon would literally sit in the cellars shaking and crying until nature’s furies had abated. And I did not realize France was subject to winds of that force . . . . I live 800 kms further south now in ‘fringe’ country: our season will soon begin – have not had much worse than 120 km gusting a little higher . . . here that is still just called a ‘storm’ . . . .

    • I can imagine the two ladies being permanently scared. I know of a lady who went through a really bad cat. 5 in the Caribbean, she was on her own and spent 48 hours hiding under the stairs of her old wooden colonial home. Decades later she still has nightmares about that time, I cannot imagine such immense fear. We rarely get storms like that here, we get winds, we get gales, but nothing normally of this strength which is why the storm of 2009 took everyone by surprise, no one suspected it or knew it would do such damage. There was a hurricane that hit the UK in the early 1984 I think that did untold damage too, again no one knew it was coming. Now all we can do is pray for everyone, Matthew has temporarily weakened but I gather will strengthen again before it gets to Florida. Xx

  • I’ve been through hurricanes even in New England. They are everything you say about them, and then some.
    As of evening, east coast time on Wednesday, it’s down to a Category 3, with winds “only” about 120 mph. Bad, but better than a Cat 5.
    It’s supposed to go up the coast of Florida and then along the coast to the Outer Banks and on up to the north. Fingers crossed that it will run out of steam sooner.

    • It seems to be changing all the time, I just watched the WPTV update, they now give it strengthening to a cat 4 by the time it gets close to Florida, hopefully though it will stay just offshore which will help a little. I hate the damage it does to the Outer Banks, they get hit so hard so often. We have been chatting to friends in Florida last night, everyone is ready, now the waiting begins. I know there are some very worried people. Xx

  • How fortunate we are that we don’t have to experience these dreadful weather conditions very often, I am so grateful. Our thoughts are with all those who are having to uproot their lives in order to be safe and have no idea of what will be left once it is over. I worry about all those in hospitals – and the elderly – what happens to them? Can they evacuate? We can only send our loving thoughts over to those in the US and we’ll be praying that Matthew stays well off shore as much as possible and that everyone remains safe.

  • Praying that Matthew will weaken and for safety for all those in his path. We have family and friends in Florida and live in central Mississippi so we remember and were affected by Katrina.. it caused so much damage to our gulf coast and New Orleans. Even being 200 miles inland, we were without power for many days. Hope that everyone is prepared and those that can evacuate do so. These strong storms have to be taken seriously.

    • Katrina was horrific. I hope this will stay just a tiny bit offshore that it currently is. We have spoken to many friends today, everyone is prepared, there has been a mass evacuation, the schools our children attended when we lived there are temporary hurricane shelters, we pray for everyone. xx

  • Well, we came through the storm with just a few big limbs down but no damage. We are two hours from the coast of SC and we have many friends in Hilton Head which was devastated. Many still have no idea how their homes fared, but are safe because our Govenor initiated mandatory evacuations well in advance of the storm! I have relatives in Murrells Inlet, SC, whom I have not heard from yet… They survived Hazel & Hugo and decided to stay in place and I’m praying they are safe. My daughter evacuated from Wilmington, NC, and is safe here with me, but her fiancé, who is in the Coast Guard, is working the ongoing storm in Wilmington. They are getting married a week from today and we are thankful Hurricane Matthew came this week instead of next week! Sadly, many brides were not so lucky… May God Bless us all!

    • Hi Julie, we have been watching the reports on the news, horrific, what else can one say. I hope the wedding is an enormous success next week and you all have a lovely time with much celebration. Xx

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