For some islands this has been a particularly devastating storm season. In September we watched Irma slowly creep across the Caribbean, gaining strength along the way, until she became a Category 5 hurricane, wreaking havoc and destruction. She didn’t weaken, hitting Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, the Lesser Antilles, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas and Cuba. She finally made landfall in Florida.
Who was spared? Jamaica and The Cayman Islands. We weren’t always sure, though, that we would be spared. In spite of projected paths showing that she would indeed turn north before hitting us, we knew that could change. We watched. We prepared. The wind projection maps showed us with a 10 percent chance of getting tropical storm force winds, with more severe winds expected in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Fortunately for us, the storm did turn north just before reaching Grand Cayman. We did have something resembling tropical storm force winds, powerful enough to move our outdoor furniture around.
While waiting for this storm, I found myself feeling agitated. I have a strong sense of empathy, so sometimes I feel like I’m absorbing the feelings of everyone around me. In this case, those feelings were anxiety, concern and fear.
We watched the news while damage reports came in from our fellow Caribbean islands. We checked and double checked our hurricane supplies, our plans, the forecasts. We watched our sea become rougher and enjoyed the wind as it took away some of the stifling heat and humidity, the persistent biting insects. We waited for the day, the time when we would know for sure if we were safe from a direct hit.
The thing is, we can withstand a tropical storm and maybe even a Category one hurricane, but Irma was another story. Then came Maria, and the pattern repeated.
Amid all this preparation and anxiety, I was alone. I had just come back from a trip to Canada and my husband and I had not even crossed paths in transit. He’d been home until a day before my return, when he went to his annual golf weekend, also in Canada.
Being alone, with no one to talk to and prepare with, my anxiety increased. I had to do yoga, exercise to the point of exhaustion and meditate. I relied on the neighbours more and more for company.
One day, a calm day on island before the storm, I was meditating by the pool, after a swim. As I stared out at the sea, I thought it looked different, more like a lake or even a deep ocean. It didn’t have its usual brilliant layers of colour, the turquoises and blues, but instead had a steely greyish blue shade. My glance shifted slightly to the right through the Casuarina trees. There was the brilliant turquoise, deep navy, and the fading turquoise as the sea becomes shallow over the sand.
When my eyes shifted left again and continued left, I could see George Town and two cruise ships looming like the floating resorts that they are, and houses and hotels lining Seven Mile Beach, and boat traffic. I thought, it’s all about perspective. We can choose to see what we want.
After being spared by both Irma and Maria, which storm caused the most damage, at least to our little corner of the island? Tropical Storm Nate, hundreds of miles away. We didn’t get the devastation that took place in Costa Rica, but somehow, the wind direction on our side of the island caused major damage to trees and plants.
At the end of this month, we’ll have an end of hurricane party. We’ll all be thankful for each other, for supportive neighbours in the storm, and thankful that once again Cayman was not in the path of any of the destructive cyclones.