On Thursday, August 27th, 2015, a storm hit Dominica. That sounds simple. It’s the Caribbean, it’s rainy season. But in a few short hours, Tropical Storm Erika dumped so much water that it actually washed away villages. It took 11 important bridges. It took the lives of people, of families, of livestock.
We knew it was a heavy rain. First, the water went (not unusual), then the internet, then the phones. We didn’t loose electricity. I noticed at the bottom of the hill there were several cars and some flashing lights. The bridge still stood, but the side road was washed away. Couldn’t tell where it had actually been and even sidewalk had moved. The construction storage yard that sat between the road and the river was half gone also. Pallets of cinder block shifted and broken. Two sides of chain link fence laying in the mud. And downriver, I could see buildings and a foot bridge that I hadn’t seen from there before. I was starting to catch on that this was more than a good heavy rain.
We went to the Sea. I thought maybe some things had washed on shore, but the shore had washed away instead. New gullies. Where there had been flat terraced areas, the sand had washed away leaving deep holes in concrete walls. We went to a friend’s who lives close to the water. They were okay, but their neighbor’s concrete steps were in what had been their yard, before the river ate 5 feet of it and took their fence.
The school closed the campus. Something that is met with anger even now. My daughter activated the student EMS (which had been on semester break) with campus security since campus was closed and the doctors could not be reached. Word began to circulate that we were essentially shut off from the rest of the island and that there was true devastation south of us. There were check-in meetings at the school every day. We went, the area we live in was shut off from the rest of the island, which I didn’t learn til later. Without phones and internet, all communication was down. Staff pm campus set it up for us to leave a message for family off island, said they would call them. It was to leave here by boat and go to where the satellite phone was in Rosseau. The storm was Thursday, my family in the states received a call on Sunday afternoon to let them know we had not been heard from and if we weren’t at the meeting that day, they would send someone to check on us. We had been at the meetings. We had signed up for sending messages two times. Sunday evening, the family finally heard we were well. Then we learned we had maybe one week of water left for our community and they were not sure about getting food in. The power plant said it had 2 days of fuel left before we lost power.
It is still hard for us over a month later. We are not to drink the water of course. But the water just barely trickles anyway. We have water. I don’t even wake up hoping it’s on anymore. We had filled a shipping barrel with water shortly before the storm and it served us well. The rain continued off and on for a few days so we could fill buckets for cleaning and flushing. When that quit, I struggled to stay positive.
Our main grocery store runs out. The dairy section was down to a bit of fake butter last week. No milk of any kind, no yogurt, no eggs. Today that was better, but the frozen foods were gone. Since the bridges on the main road were taken out, delivery of goods must come by boat. Fortunately, there is a pier for larger boats. The roads opened for a bit using the abundant washed in sand to build up areas, but they were not very safe and some areas did not hold up to the further rains.
We are in good shape. We are still feeling disheartened and discouraged with a bit of concern thrown in for water, power and food. But we are in a safe house. We have basics. For this we are grateful.
UPDATE: I wrote this last night. This morning we have been advised that the water in this area is safe to drink. Before the storm, we didn’t drink the water out of the tap, too much grit for us, but this means we feel comfortable filling our water jugs again with the filtered water on campus! This is good. Water is still just a trickle, but it’s not yellow green leaving silt in the bottom of the container like before.