When people think of Jamaica, what image do they see? Sand? Yes, on the coast. Blue seas? Yes, on the coast. Lush green hills? Yes, most places. Sunny weather? Yes, most times. What, not all the time, except night? Yes! Now, it’s the peak of hurricane season.
“Every Tuesday, we get rain!” cried the lady. “Did you see the water in that gully?” yelled my child. “It looked like chocolate soup.” We had just come over the hills, again. We’d seen the dark clouds looming as we headed to the car. “Looks like the storm’s coming on time,” I said, glibly. On time, being about 2:45 each afternoon. Dark, thick clouds covered the top of Jacks Hill. A flash of lightning. Then, a huge clap of thunder. We rolled. Within five minutes, I had to ask myself if I was in Jamaican territory or the US Midwest. The wind was picking up as I saw plastic bottles and bags flying past the car. The wipers swayed.
We reached the start of the hill and I could see the first signs of light debris rushing towards us in little rivulets. Onward, James!
A minute later, I wondered if I had made the right decision. The rain was lashing the car and the din was deafening. The wipers rsced across the glass like frenzied fingers, but unable to deal with the liquid. I squinted. “Daddy, can you see? I can’t.” I grunted a yes. My nose pressed forward and my eyes squinted to try to pick out the curves. The overgrown grass, now many feet tall, had bowed and was making our track like Bamboo Alley. A truck was coming towards us, and it looked too wide for us to pass. I slowed, then stopped. It passed and slashed the side of the car with a small wave. I waved back with a smile. “That was close!” came a not chirpy voice.
My foot pushed on the pedal again and we had another try to get to the hill top. It was now black outside. Pea soup? More like molasses. We reached the top and looked down over Kingston, trying to see the coastline as usual. Not a thing to see. “What time is it?” ‘Miss Daisy’ asked. “It’s so dark!” A fork of lightning give us a beam of light. It seemed that we were right in the midst of the storm. “Exciting!”
We had reached the arch-shaped house on the crest of the hill and started the trek down the other side.
“Look out for the potholes,” came a helpful reminder. I twisted the wheel and rode the bank on the inside of the hill to avoid one deep hole I remembered but could not see. “Nice!” came my lady’s approving voice. I could see the water ahead of me was now a torrent and pebbles and small rocks were passing alongside. Another curve. Another. Another. We reached the flatter part of the hill and stopped. The clinking sound on the windscreen was worrying. It sounded like nails. I cracked my window and peeped out. “Shine on, child! That’s hail! In Jamaica!” I yelled. We both started laughing.
My daughter grabbed my phone and started to make a video. “This is my Dad, driving home, in Kingston, Jamaica. The land of wood and WATA!” We reached the gulley. The water was rushing across furiously. Deep enough to have to stop and check if anything was being carried along in it. Don’t laugh. Have you ever been sideswiped by an on-rushing shopping trolley? Well, let me tell you… We crossed and were soon in our driveway. “Daddy? Do you have the umbrella? And do you have a helmet?” Ever resourceful, I pulled out an umbrella, and today’s paper. “There!” The little body jumped out of the car and was promptly pelleted by hail stones. “Ouuuch!” One doused rat delivered safely.
We looked out at our backyard as the pool of water rose and a little lake formed, with hail pellets splashing in it. “Still like Jamaica?” I asked. I got a broad grin back in reply.
Every day that we get heavy rains and thunderstorms like this I’m thankful. It’s not a full-blown hurricane.