Hurricane Matthew: Personal images of Jamaica’s slight brush with danger

This time last week, Jamaicans were being told to prepare for a possible category 4 or 5 hurricane. It never hit us directly, though we were touched by its edges; those in the east and south on lower levels got plenty of impact from sea surges and flooding from rain. As I write, Haiti is counting its dead from a direct hit over the past two days–the number has gone past a staggering 800 people. The Bahamas is cleaning damage, but so far no deaths reported. Florida is facing the storm now, and states to the north, especially South Carolina and Georgia are braced.

Given what I’ve seen from elsewhere, my heart is easy with the knowledge of how fortunate we’ve been. But, I remain prepared as new weather systems form during the hurricane season, which has several weeks still to run. In that vein, I pick a few pictures and videos to remind me of what we passed through.​

The beginning, we thought:

Protective measures

Vendors strap down against the wind

Clouds looming in the morning sky

Hatches battened down and shutters in place

The sunset sky, Saturday night, ahead of Matthew’s expected arrival–Hurricane on its way, most people thought
One of forecasts pointing to the shift away from Jamaica

Flash thunderstorm midweek after Matthew passed

October 6: Boys, near Kingston Harbour, alongside garbage washed down in flooding the week before

Rain came suddenly on October 6, while Matthew was lashing The Bahamas and Haiti

Unbelievable light evening traffic, Tuesday October 4; Barbican

Time to open shutters and windows, October 5

Tuesday midmorning and the sky looks clearer

Taking a chance on a dawn walk on Monday, while still expecting Matthew

I’m no criminal, and I keep my promise to Bunny

Today, I took the last step in getting a police record–collecting a form that stated I’m not in the police data base. It’s good to confirm what you believe😊👍🏾

I took the drive to downtown Kingston on one of the strangest recent mornings. I headed out just after 9am, after the morning rush, but all roads were jammed. Part of a major north-south route, Constant Spring Road, had collapsed!

Constant Spring Road: It’s hole, alright

I managed to dodge it all, by opting to go over the hills, and bypassing all the trouble. When I got downtown, I managed to find parking about 30 seconds from the Jamaica Constabulary Force office. I stated my business, and went first left, then right, to the desk. As I got there, the official was explainging patiently to a lady that things might not be working as expected: we’d just had a weekend preparing for a hurricane, and most government offices had been closed for the first two days of this week. Still…The first conversation I heard went as follows:

Official: “You paid for 24-hour service?”

Scowling face lady: *glares*

Official: “I explained that I’m just filling in for the regular officer here, so cannot tell you exactly what the situation is. We had disruptions but I hope it is ready.”

Scowling face lady: *glares harder*

Official: “We’re only humans.” (I was tempted to sing the song, and turn the office into a musical.)

Snap out of it!

I handed in my receipt, and quipped, “By the way, I’m an alien.” The young official smiled. She took the paper and told me to take a seat. The room was fuller than last week, perhaps reflecting some backlog. Anyway, after about 30 minutes, I was called, signed for my report and was on my way.

The day had begun strangely, with another dark, cloudy sky. Hurricane Matthew had not wreaked havoc on Jamaica, but was doing so on Haiti and The Bahamas, but we were getting huge thunderstorms and solid short showers. One had hit earlier, on the way to school, and another had hit while I was waiting. When I walked outside, everyone was huddled in the doorway. Thankfully, I just had a few steps back to the car.

But, I had to run another errand: I’d promised ‘Bunny’ that I’d bring him some tee shirts. I headed off into the grid of lanes downtown and found the right street. I knocked on a makeshift door, and a man asked whom I was looking for; I explained. He said he’d go tell Bunny: “Bunny! A elder waan see you!” Moments later, I was stepping into a ‘yard’ that led past some spaces used as rooms. 

It was hard to figure out what the building used to be, but it was now ‘home’ to several people.

I pushed past the washing and met Bunny putting on a shirt as I approached his door. He looked surprised but smiled. “I’m a man of my word,” I said, and handed him two tee shirts. He took them, thankfully. He asked about the car, which was fine. Nothing else to do, I headed back to my car to dodge more rain. My man, who had hailed Bunny asked if I could give him $200 to buy a ‘hurricane rum’; I gave him a friendly lecture in economics 🙂

I glanced at a pile of garbage that looked like it had been washed there over the weekend, when we’d had flash flooding. A few young men stood near the pile. I was curious, but just left that where it was.