Friday, November 19, 2010

Hurricane Tomas and the Rainy Season Goes On, n On, n On

I hardly know what to say. Yesterday in St. Lucia, just so, rain came pouring down. I had set out to drive down to Soufriere to return Christalee in preparation for her going back to school on Monday and we'd stopped at Mega J, Choc, Castries; the skies had been cloudy as we drove past Marisule, the view of the West coast was positively scary - a bit like the pic below that Teige took elsewhere, and by the time we'd finished shopping, the rain was pouring down like it was going out of style! So after phone calls home, to her dad, from her aunts, from random friends...we realized that wherever we were going, for sure, it was not to Soufriere that day!
Storm Clouds over St. Lucia, November 18th 2010 (photo Teige LaBorde)
On the way back up north, roads were already flooding, rivers raging with muddy water and cars in low parking lots with water inching past their doors...clouds were everywhere, sitting down low on hills just above people's rooftops - like they'd been pulled down by the heaviness of the rain.
Bois d'Orange car park flooded Nov 18th, St. Lucia (Colette Stayers-McDermott)
Clouds sit on hills near Baywalk Mall, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia (Finola Prescott)
By the time I reached Rodney bay I had an almost frantic call from a friend asking where I was, worried I'd have been on the road south - she told me a 9yr old boy had already drowned after slipping into a storm drain and being caught under a culvert.

It wasn't long after that news came that Quatre Chimen, where Livity Arts Studio and the Thomas family were lost in a massive landslide, slid again and closed that road. In reality, it's been sliding a bit every day, and every day, the crews go and clear it up so traffic can pass. But this slide was a bit bigger.

Later I heard Ladera's hillside had also slid and blocked the road south of Soufriere and one or two of the massive boulders that are held in the mud had slid there too. And again, the road crews had that road passable by day's end too.

Castries of course flooded in no time at all - much to everyone's frustration. And Bexon river flooded early up too.
Castries Flooded November 18th 2010 - frustrating people (photo Teige La Borde)
But the worst feeling was when later I was listening to the radio and one caller was recounting seeing a woman grab her child and pelt off down the road, trying to outrun the overflowing river...that was Bexon, and Bexon and Marc, barely recovering, barely beginning to start to dig themselves out of the mud...they were seriously flooded again yesterday.

Finally the order came for evacuation for that area - now 3 weeks after Tomas, it's sinking in that Bexon is dangerous - the mud still remains up to the road height and so the massively increased river has nowhere to flow...except for once again, through people's houses and lives.

In fact that was what struck me yesterday and today - as it poured down again today - the soil was so thoroughly soaked by those 23+ inches that fell 3 weeks ago that the rain has no-where to go, the soil is full, floods are instant, landslips continuing.

So yes, thanks everyone for all your help so far - many have been fed and many have received clothes and temporary shelter. But as we struggle here to turn around the muddy mess and get back to school, back to life, we are still just a few drops away from more tragedy and more loss. So, please keep your support coming - we have a serious struggle ahead of us this Christmas season.

And for those booked to come visit us, yes, many hotels are open - and many attractions - apparently the new (old) road into the Soufriere Volcano adds a little excitement to that attraction :-) and bridges in many parts of the island are in various states of repair and dispair...but we are open for business, and we do have sights to see, and if you are up to a bit of an adventure...we do need the support for real. As I've said before, come prepared for a bit of a different Caribbean holiday and come prepared to spend some money in the local economy - it's a lifeblood for many.

And spare a thought for us in the coming days - most weather forecasts say we're in for more rain...not sure where we'll put it, I suspect every bucket and rain-barrel is full right now. So Lucians, hunker down and don't get blase - keep safe, and don't do like that idiot in the video - swimming in Castries flood ain't rainwater, it's garbage soup! Nasty stuff - don't play in flood waters children (of all ages)!

I'm thinking I might have to take the middle word out of the title of this temporary protest...what you think?