Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hurricane update (Mon. 12:00 a.m.)

Well, the power finally went out around 2:00 even though it was scheduled to go out island wide at 10 or 11 a.m. At 2:00 the storm was about 70 miles from Kingston which should have put it here about 5:30 p.m.
At about 3:00 the sustained winds were really picking up and the gusts were what you would expect from a hurricane. Honestly I have really been surprised by the sporadic winds. It's been more gusts than anything permanent. Despite that, trees were losing limbs all over the place and you could hear what sounded like roofs coming off down the street. We were listening to the news on the radio and people were reporting that the gullys were near overflowing and some were near crossing the roads they go under. At that point we also still had phone service somehow. I called mommy and reassured her that I was still ok. But reports were that the worst was yet to come.
Around 4:00 I was thinking that the news reports were inaccurate because the winds actually died down. We didn't have power and the TV stations had probably pulled all their satellite dishes down anyway so we couldn't check the Weather Channel to see exactly what was going on. But the suspicions were that the eye was going to keep south of Jamaica. At this point the eye was 40 miles SE of Kingston and still moving pretty much straight west. So at this rate the eye would actually stay off the coast but it was still very possible for it to "wobble" back north enough for it to make landfall right on top of us. By about 4:15 the winds had picked back up with a fury! The sustained winds were now very high (I later heard somewhere around 140) and the gusts were insane!
5:00 came around and the winds started shifting from out of the east to out of the south. This obviously meant that the eye was moving past us. Apparently it did in fact stay off the coast about 50 miles. This meant that Jamaica, and Kinston in particular, had been spared the worst of the storm. The winds are strongest around the eye so it's best if it stays away! As the winds shifted the roof on a small church next door started peeling. We watched as a couple sheets of zinc (aluminum roofing material) peeled off and flew away. The winds were pretty intense for the next couple hours.
As it started to get dark the winds slowly subsided a bit but the rain continued. Now it's approaching midnight and it's down to a stiff breeze and a light drizzle. This will probably continue for another 12-24 hours before the weather gets back to normal.
Until then, Kingston and other parts of the island are under a curfew. Looting is very probable and the curfew is supposed to help that. Already, even during the storm, there have been reports of shootings and looting. The power is likely to be off for a long time, possibly up to 3 weeks. The water is shut off as well and that could be off for weeks too. Tomorrow morning we're planning on going out early and surveying the damage, getting some pictures and video and helping where we can. We're not sure how the church fared through the storm but we'll likely find out tomorrow.
Thank you for your continued prayers!! Jamaica, even though it was hit hard, was spared the worst! The storm, almost miraculously, stayed off the coast, helping Jamaica avoid what was being called the worst hurricane to hit Jamaica since 1950. . . topping even Gilbert in 1988, which is the storm everyone still talks about. Please continue to pray as the clean-up begins. It will be a long road for Jamaica and it will likely take years to get back to where it was before today. A lot of lives and a lot of homes were destroyed and both will take a lot of rebuilding!

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