the october storms that changed everything

the october storms that changed everything

It has been such a long time since I’ve written anything. At least for here. Things were going well until the seasonal storms began arriving one after the other this past October. In all my years here — which are 11 in case you’re wondering — I had never experienced so much wind and rain in one month.

It all started at the beginning of October when Tropical Storm Gamma passed through. For that, I cleared my rooftop palapa. I thought it better than playing a patio furniture version of “where’s waldo” after it passed.

I was glad I did. Gamma was a bit on the windy side. It was also a bit on the rainy side. We were left soaked. Unfortunately, our weather didn’t get better. As the days in October progressed, so did our storms. Little did we know we were in for not one, but two hurricanes within weeks of each other. They were the first in this region in 15 years and my first ever.

The first hurricane, Delta, was broadcast to be a Category 4 at landing, which they kept saying would be the Cancun area. I live 64 kms south of Cancun so knew we were not going to get the direct hit, but still. Our sister city was.

Even with the news of its inevitable arrival, all of us — and I really do mean ALL of us — kind of brushed it off since we’ve had hurricanes forecast nearly every season since the beginning of hurricane forecasting.

It seems at least one time per season we have a meteorologist who tells us to brace for the worst. But each and every time, for the previous 11 times at least that I can vouch for, something happens that takes the storm on a new course, saving us from hurricane doom.

So for Delta,while I did a bit of an extra full grocery shop the day before, I admit that I didn’t start actual hurricane preparations until the day of. And I wasn’t alone. Many of my men neighbors didn’t start drilling boards to their windows until 5 or 6 that evening. Delta was scheduled to arrive at 2:00 a.m. as a (last minute) Category 2.

And she did. She arrived precisely on time and with a vengeance. But luckily for us, she was also in a hurry. She flew through here leaving us in total disarray. What items I did leave on my patio were thrown about. In the morning, neighbors came out to find our private park was flooded. Trees, downed, power still out…but no deaths. Our neighborhood had power reconnected by 9:00 p.m. that night.

So during that day, which was pretty sunny, we spent it comparing damage and helping one another clean up the mess. While certainly not a joyous event, it did bring us a bit closer together. Then came Zeta. The storm that changed everything.

Two back-to-back hurricanes in Riviera Maya

We could not believe it! Another hurricane. Back-to-back storms. Not only had we had our first hurricane in 15 years, we were set to have a second one. Zeta, which was forecast to land as a Category 1. For this storm, we did nothing. Seriously. I moved patio items around rather than remove them. I wrapped my vehicle tight. Secured a few young trees and slammed all the windows and doors shut.

My neighbors didn’t do much more than I did. The boards used to cover the windows for Delta stayed…off the windows. No one boarded. We were pretty tired from Delta.We were told Hurricane Zeta would arrive at 8:00 p.m. and be gone by 11:00. Hurray I thought. I can do this…another in-and-out hurricane. While not pleasant, I decided to stay up and wait it out.

No such luck. Winds from Zeta were being felt at 5:00 p.m. By midnight, the strength of the storm had just begun to arrive. I was in bed when I heard it. Zeta took her time and swirled. And swirled. And swirled. For hours it spun around us with heavy rain and intolerable wind. The noise was deafening.

I could hear “things” breaking. Things from my neighbors homes being pried and tossed away. The breaking didn’t stop. It went on so long, I laid in bed trying to guess what the sounds were. What Zeta had destroyed now. Pieces from my house? Parts of my palapa? My trees maybe? Zeta was all about the constant sound of breaking with her incredible long gusts of strong wind. Then silence. Complete silence. The scariest sound of them all.

Every time Zeta became still, I noticed how much my chest muscles ached. They ached from stress breathing and heartbeats…and from holding my breath. I kept checking on my dogs. One was on meds she started that day. She was out. The other was as stressed as I was. What I wouldn’t have given to be my medicated dog that night.

No one slept. About five hours in I’d had enough…but not Zeta. Her on-again, off-again storm strategy was taking its toll. “Just do it already!” I yelled a few times at no one. “Just knock down our trees, pop our windows, blow open the doors, soak us, I don’t care…but just go already. Just leave!”

Zeta hung around until 6:30 the following morning. I went outside to see what she’ been up to all night and saw what I expected to see. More devastation. More destruction. More things to fix, repair, replace.

This time when the neighbors walked the streets, it was with a different step. We were shocked at how long the storm lasted. At how much worse that Category 1 was over the Category 2 we had two weeks before. Zeta caused more damage than Delta. It also wounded us personally.

The vibe in the Zeta air was a tired one. An exhausted one of people dragging tools to clear and clean the basics so life could go on for that day. Sections of streets were cleared of fallen debris so cars could pass. Yards were heaped with piles rather than cleared of them. We left a majority of the destruction where Zeta had generated it. We just didn’t have the energy to fight back.

Two of our Ceibas were set back upright

Just before Christmas, a local organization sent its crew of men and machinery to our community to upright two massive Ceiba trees that were so disgracefully felled during Zeta. Two of our most beloved and symbolic trees were taken down by that Category 1 storm.

We stood around and watched a backhoe dig the 2-meter holes through limestone before a second machine arrived to upright them back into place. For the most part, our community has been put back together, but there is still a sense of sadness that can be felt, especially when the hard winds blow.