Hurricane Supplies and Systems – Winners and Weiners
Mon, it’s GREAT to be back!!! You’ll have to bear with me; I’m a little excitable and I’ve contracted a case of internet withdrawl-induced exclamationosis!!!! <---- see?
Before I detail the W&W report, I want to thank Collins for his diligent situation reports over the months. We could send email via my Bride’s crackberry, but couldn’t access Wunderground, just www.wund.com. So it goes. I hope to never have to use QUERTY type again. My thumbs have callouses in odd places and that’s not a good look for anyone. Also appreciate you all who sent care packages as well as Scarlett, Foxx, Raysfan, Skyepony and others for your care and reporting. Your support was a great morale boost, and I can’t thank you all enough. Was great to FINally be able to read my own blog. In case you ever wondered to what depths the term “soon come” goes, my past blog is a prime example of that: “ New blog in T-2 days and one soon come”. I suppose those were Jovian or Saturnian days. Appreciate all the well wishes and prayers and friviolity on my blog. You all da BEST!
We were without conventional power for 64 days. I have to say that for ourselves, that really wasn’t very difficult for us. We’d acquired a gasoline generator back in 2004 and hadn’t ever started it; it performed like a champ, and we were very frugal with our usage of it, such that we didn’t spend but about a dollar or two more per day than we’d usually spend on regular power. We had 50 gallons of fuel safely stored. Most of our systems and stuff performed as expected. There were a few shining stars and a few colossal disappointments.
I was on the internet all night prior to the storm. At that point I don’t need a meteorologist – at that point a person has to make their own decisions and be responsible for them. You mets have been a GREAT help to us in the past, allowing me to benefit from your experience, learn from you such that we could make informed decisions.
When Paloma intensified early Saturday morning, it also gained a forward speed increase to about 9 or 10 mph. I checked the tide tables and saw that at that speed, it would likely arrive at low tide, and I didn’t expect much of a surge, us being surrounded by deep water. As it turned out, the sea crossed the road in front of our house and made it to the rise that is on the same grade as our house.
We had our van loaded to go to the cave, as we always do, but didn’t anticipate actually going. I woke up my Bride at 2:00 and we talked it over, and I gave her giant ziplocks to put the rest of her clothes in. Appliances and other toys were already covered. We lost power shortly after that, but the Blackberry continued to function. Kudos to Cable & Wireless (now called LIME) in that we never lost their cell service. The heavy winds came shortly after that. Just after daylight, the cats starting going crazy, pacing up and down and whining and I was laying on the floor trying to pet them and console them. Just then my Darlin’ said, “Good Lord! WE have water coming here! AND here! AND in the bedroom!” The wind was taking the rain under the corrugated tin of our roofing, which brought it onto our ceiling, making water run down the northern wall, and pool on the ceiling. I had done our ceiling in ¾” celotex rather than sheetrock, and taped and textured it. Cellotex is foil-lined foam and besides having an R-value of 6, I find that it also reflects mind-control wavelengths. LMBO! Sorry, couldn’t resist. SO, when the water deflected the ceiling, we just poked a hole in that spot and put a drywall bucket under it. We noticed that as soon as we sprang into action, the two cats settled onto a high place and basically went to sleep, even though we were dashing about battling the water. Later, we thought about that and decided that when the cats were so agitated, they were saying to us: “We had to stay in the @#$@#% house for two days, so we wouldn’t get wet from the WATER! (pointing with catpaws lol) WATER! LOOK! WATER !!!” Once they could see that their staff was on the job (FINALLY) they went to sleep.
At about daybreak, the power pole broke in half and pulled on our power line so violently that it yanked our tiny little substandard INTERIOR service panel OUT of the hollow concrete block, over my van which was parked a foot from that side of the house, and into the bush. We heard a metallic sound in the kitchen. “What was that???” I said…. “Well, there’s a hole in the side of the house might have something to do with it” m’Bride said. The metallic sound was the front of the service panel hitting the floor. We were to be glad for that hole later.
We went back to battling water, stopping for an occasional hug and wacky humor. We have shutters over the doors as well, and they fit tightly into a recessed wooden frame. Shortly thereafter, water started pouring around the shutters and our interior door. A LOT of water, like two hoses worth. I tasted it, and said a string of very bad words. The water was extremely salty. Seawater. The sea was crashing and constantly booming, but we couldn’t tell if it was at our door or some distance away. Looking out either of the two peekholes in the shutters was just like looking at a white sheet flapping in the wind: We couldn’t see a thing. My Bride scooted (yes, she can really scoot) to the new hole in the wall and looked out and said, “it’s not running past the house [the sea]” so we knew we were okay. An hour or so later, the winds started to drop off quite a bit.
“I gotta go out and look at the roof…..” I said.
“NO! That’s stupid! There’s still XXXX flying about.”
“I know. It IS stupid. I GOTTA see.”
“You can’t do anything about it until the winds are gone.”
“I know. I gotta see. I’ll be quick and hug the west wall.”
“Okay. You’re going to be an idiot and go outside, you’re going to do it on my terms. I’m going to watch out the holes and I’ll signal you when to go. You go fast and you watch for my signal at the corner. You do what you gotta and get back fast. If you get hurt I’m gonna kill you.”
I grabbed the Davis Instruments WindScribe and quickly calibrated it. Doc, this is for you ;o) Bride said “GO!” and I went out the back door, ran to the corner, scooted along the wall (I can scoot too) and stuck my hand around the northwest corner with the WindScribe. I measured 122 mph sustained at that point. The rain was like little needles. Idiot here, looked for the signal and dashed out, looked at the roof and dashed back inside. I was amazed. It held. There were over 25 pieces of tin roof all over the back and side yard, but none of it was ours. Just before Ivan in 2004, I had gone up on the roof and ran 3” screws with ¾” washers into EVERY peak and valley of the corrugated tin on the edge. I’d observed before that that usually metal roofing starts peeling from the edge, and once the first sheet goes, many others follow. The roof held. I don’t suppose the jacketed 1/4” cable that went over the roof and was anchored into the foundation hurt either. This is my #1 WINNER, as far as systems that worked. The ol’ Crabsystem shutters worked like champs as well, and they didn’t even knock in the winds, even at peak 150+ mph winds. When we finally came out two hours later, there wasn’t a power or utility pole standing as far as I could see in either direction. There was a clutter of driftwood and sponges jammed against the lower wall of the house. Our boat was off the trailer, and the trailer was toast. Bride’s car took an 8-inch branch through the back window and was bashed and toasted. My concrete mixer was twisted and most of our big coconuts were snapped like carrots about halfway up their trunks. All of our 2000 square feet of old tree shade/canopy was gone, as the trees were all down. My shed survived, but the homemade solar collector I’d made was gone, later to be found about 50 yards away, the 3/4” copper tubing shredded.
We put on our oilskin coats, grabbed a gobag backpack, and set out to survey the neighborhood. Others were emerging, and we feared the worst. Roofs damaged, missing, broken, twisted. Rumors of shelter structural failures spread. As the day wore on, we found that everyone within two miles had survived. Later on, much to our joy and eternal blessing, we found out that there had been no loss of life on either of the Sister Islands, nor Grand Cayman.
I’ll load some pictures soon. I went to take photographs…. and I just couldn’t. I came across an elderly friend of ours, sitting on the slab where her house used to be. I came across a church that was completely destroyed down to the slab. Right in the middle of that slab were two church pews, still with hymnals in the slots in back. Everything else was in a heap to the west of where the church had been. I took some photos of the “art” of several power lines woven around a coconut tree. Other things like that.
I’d told my darlin’ in October that I wasn’t going to take on any more roofing jobs. It busts my ankles being on a pitched roof all day, and it’s a job for a younger man. SOOOO, of course, after the storm what did I do? I spent the whole next month on roofs LOL!
We have a solar shower that my best buddy sent us, and we set that up, and used it to heat water. We’d acquired a 12V water pump, powered by a deep-cycle battery, which in turn is charged by a 5W PV solar panel. I put the panel back up on the roof, and that night our friends in the neighborhood were treated to a hot shower and meal. The whole island pulled together. We’re all related, and know each other and I saw the best of people. We’d acquired the 12V pump system to draw water from our well to water the plants, but I’d plumbed it in with a lot of valves, so I could also draw off the cisterns, or pressurize the house. One of our cisterns was contaminated by the sea washing over it. The other is about two feet higher and was uncontaminated. We never did tap into the two 55-gallon sterilized water containers. This 12V water pump system has got to be WINNER #2. Didn’t realize when we bought the generator that it couldn’t run our 110 A/C water pump due to it’s start-up wattage. So, the little battery-powered pump supplied all our house water – at 40 psi – and we’re still using it.
There were several professional instruments on this island that measured sustained winds well into the Cat 5 range. I don’t guess it matters much. Destroyed is destroyed. Certainly our 9-foot surge was more consistent with Cat 2 surge, so it’s probably appropriate that Paloma was labeled as a Cat 4 storm. I’ve heard from some mariners that offshore ships measured gusts above 200 mph. I’ve not taken the time to wander into archives of Data Buoys to confirm that, but I wouldn’t doubt it a bit. I was walking behind the house – this was a month after Paloma – winding through a previously clear trail I’d cut through the bush. I was going to check some of our fruit trees, and I saw A ROOF!!! I was royally pissed, because initially my mind filled in the blanks and I swore I saw a 15-foot red roof sitting on posts. I was livid. WHO would DO such a thing????? Turns out a house about 1/8 of a mile as the rooster flies from our house lost a 15-foot section of roof, complete with 2 X 4 framing and gingerbread, lifted off and sailed and touched down perfectly about 250 yards behind our house. I think I might frame up some posts beneath it at some later soon come date.
We’d acquired these inexpensive battery-powered fans with soft blades. They’re made by Coleman – about $12.00 U.S. – and are powered by 4 D-cell batteries. We’d acquired a dozen Energizer rechargeable batteries and a small solar charger. WELL. They didn’t hold a charge for more than an hour, and when I cut them open, I found that they had a teensy battery inside. WEINER!!!!! After we got REAL D-cells, four would run the fans for about 20 hours. What a ripoff , in my cranky humble opinion. Now, having said that, one of my favorite WINNERS is the Energizer two-color headlamp. It has LED lamps, and will shine white or red. Runs off 3 AAA batteries, and as much as I used it to cook with, feed the generator at night and look for cats, etc., I only changed the batteries once. As an aside…… with this headlamp set on “red” and wearing it on your head, the red light makes human and animal eyeballs light up like red headlamps. It’s the same angle of reflection and mechanism that causes red-eye in photographs and it’s very useful for locating our cats at night, even if they’re 150 yards or so away.
I remember on night I was wearing the headlamp and looking for the cats and I saw these tiny little lights orbiting on the ground 30 feet away. Looked like a dozen red lights and when I got closer I found out that what I was seeing was the eyes of four giant Sphinx moths, feeding on a rotten breadfruit.
We’ve been storing foods and supplies for years, writing the date we got the food on the package/can and rotating our stock. I’ve never cared much for canned cheese, but mon, it’s great to cook with, and along with the Red Feather canned butter, it was a real treat in the aftermath of the storm. WINNERS. Kame brand noodles/sauce in paper/plastic containers, however….. they didn’t go bad per se, but they took on a nasty rubbery flavor. One could survive on them, but they weren’t very tasty. 1/2 WEINER.
One of the primary tools in the aftermath of a bad ‘cane is a good working chainsaw. I had a Poulan Pro that was about six months old, and well-maintained, lovingly cleaned, oiled, etc. I started cutting some fallen trees that were on the road – this was just after the storm had passed – and the chain-tightening mechanism sheared off. Turns out it’s a little knurled plastic knob with two plastic gears that tighten a pin that goes through the bar of the chainsaw. When those gears broke, it made the chainsaw useless. BIG TIME WEINER. Sorry Poulan, just calling it like it was. Probably a decent product, but it failed me when I needed it the most. My best buddy went into high gear, put together an excellent Echo chainsaw, with extra bar, extra chains, sharpening files, extra spark plugs, even earplugs and eye protection and FedExed it to me and saved the day. Oh, what the hell, you know anyway. Thank you Collins. You saved the day, brother. HUGE WINNERS, both Collins and the Echo chainsaw. The pull on this chainsaw is very light, and the saw is balanced and SWEEET. I currently have a torn forearm flexor, but even with that injury, I can start the chainsaw without pain, that’s what a great tool it is. ALWAYS starts, and cuts wood evenly and easily. The kickback tip guard is great too, as much of what I was cutting was into a fallen jumble of wood and I couldn’t always see the tip of the chainsaw.
I always wondered kinda why we were putting away so much flour. Sure, I use it some, but we’d amassed about 150 pounds. Now, our stove is propane, so we could still cook, and, of course, we have a myriad of back-up cooking systems. We were wanting some flatbread, as tortillas and pita bread make for easy meals when you’re in a semi-survival situation. Well, we started making our own flour tortillas, and better still, I learned how to make pita bread. It’s not hard, just time-consuming. Pita bread rocks in this situation, as it keeps for a longer time than regular bread, plus, you fill it with whatever, and don’t have to wash plates or silverware. We weren’t short on water, but wanted to conserve it anyway.
I’ve wondered in the past why people seemed to clamor for ice in the aftermath of a hurricane. I mean, beyond the obvious reasons, I didn’t figure that it was life-saving. Three days after Paloma, a fishing ship from Honduras heard of our plight, and got permission to enter our waters and docked their ship here. They hadn’t put any fish in the hold yet, and they had several tons of ice. Maaaaan, hygiene went out the door then, and we were shoveling ice into coolers, bags, anything people could hold ice in. I will never forget them, and I wish I knew their names so we could thank them properly. That ice supplied the whole island for a few days, and it was an incredible morale boost for all of us. That first cold beer….. ICE cold beer……. I can’t tell you how sweet it was. Ice cold water….. it was wonderful. Seems like everyone was smiling and laughing and showing signs of hopefulness after that.
We had a lot of help from the big Island – Grand Cayman. There are still folks from there helping out -- Public Works, etc. They brought supplies and labor and the beloved tarps. Much of the place is still blue-tarped or blacked-in with subroof coatings here, but we’re slowly getting fixed up. CUC (Caribbean Utilities Company) out of Grand Cayman brought over not only professional linemen and electricians, but also wire and shipped several of their utilities trucks over here to assist Cayman Brac Power and Light. There were many other unsung heroes. Baptist churches from Grand Cayman brought over food and personell and ….. love and caring to feed people at no charge. Cable & Wireless (LIME) had and still have a daunting task in reworking the phone systems and wires, etc. to restore land lines and internet. We got internet back this Sunday. Some folks never lost their land line. I know this….. Both Power and Light and Lime employees have been working incredibly long hours for the last four months to get everything restored as quickly as possible, and even a little population as ours….. it’s a huge task. For one thing, many of the utility poles had to be peckered into the rock.
One thing I’ve observed, and I’m absolutely convinced of this, however it IS just my opnion. I think many of the roofing systems were lost or damaged due to either plastic soffit and/or lack of blocking in between the rafters. Our house has plywood soffit, and blocking. I’ve seen several situations where the plastic soffit blew out, and in the absence of blocking, the wind pressurizes into the roof of the structure and blows the roof off. I believe that we should button our homes up as tight as we can, not giving wind a toehold of any kind. Now, if a door had blown off, I would have rushed to release the pressure on the other side of the house, but I personally don’t subscribe to that bit about opening a window on the lee side of a storm. For one thing, I don’t think the windpressure acts in a static manner on a structure. Keep the wind out. I’ve noticed that if there is no outflow for the wind, you don’t perceive it. If you are in a cave without any place for the wind to outflow, you can have 100+ mph winds coming right at you, but you won’t perceive the winds. I believe that automatically opening a window on the lee side of a storm should be filed in that same place with other archaic advice, such as taping your windows. My opinion.
Big Berkey water filter. Money well spent. We knew that was a WINNER even before this storm.
Most of the time, I would cook by candlelight. I still do. Some things stay with you as a result of being through the aftermath of a storm. We still use the old stovetop espresso pot instead of the shiny machine we used before the storm. I encourage you to light one of your candles and let it burn down, see how it does. I hadn’t done this, and we had a dozen of these cute, scented mini-candles in little Mason-like jars. They were almost worthless, as the wax didn’t burn away quickly enough, and they would drown their own flame. I tried adding different wicks, but it was the wax. I’d tell you the brand of these little WEINERS, but they don’t seem to have a brand stamped on them.
There’s a product called True Lime, a crystallized lime substitute, natural unsweetened lime powder. Wonderful. Each small 1.0 oz box has 40 packets of this stuff, and it was great to make flavored drinks, cook with. We depend upon lime a lot in our Caribbean cooking, and this was as close to the real thing as one can get. WINNER.
White’s Boots and Hubards Shoe Grease kept my feet dry and protected during all of this bush tromping. A note about White’s Boots: Huge WINNER. I bought these boots more than 30 years ago when I was 17. They cost about $110 at that time, and aren’t a whole lot more now. The soles are attached by screws and I’ve had them resoled six times. I have a very high arch, and they’re custom-made for your foot. I’ll never wear any other boot, although I wonder how they stayed in business with a product this good.
That’s about it for now. As you know, I’ve always suffered from verbosity, and finally being back online has just made that worse. I’m even annoying myself LOL! If you’ve read this and gotten anything out of it, then I thank you and hope your eyeballs aren’t too sore. I’ll probably add more things as I wander through my post-storm notes, and will pass on anything that I think might help someone. We were all very lucky here. We were blessed.
Humor and the ability to inflict it upon others is vital in the aftermath of a Situation X/hurricane/disaster. It’s not always easy, but humor……. humor is a WINNER. Never leave home without it.
Love and Laughter to you all