Las Cumbres, Puerto Rico – There was no damage to her home in Puerto Rico when the island was hit by Hurricane Irma last week, but Velda Brown said she did lose electricity and water for several days.
Brown, who grew up on Grand Manan, and graduated from Grand Manan High School, is a teacher at the Wesleyan Academy in Las Combres, and this is not the first hurricane she has encountered since moving there, she said when contacted by phone Saturday morning.
“It’s actually quite exciting when it happens. You are watching the trees, and the wind is howling. You don’t think it can blow any harder. We don’t have window panes – just metal louvres – and we had to put towels down on the floor because the water was coming in. It was also coming under the door, because it is not set tight to the floor.”
There was plenty of warning about the approaching hurricane, so she said she and the friend, who shares the house with her, were very busy getting prepared for it.
“The week before the hurricane came, and we knew it was coming, we got a lot of canned foods, and we got water. We knew it was going to be insane. It was a long weekend, so a lot of people did have a chance to get stuff.”
She said her friend went to get some gas the day before Irma hit, and there were cars lined up. The hurricane came through Wednesday afternoon, but thankfully, it was not a direct hit, said Brown, or it would have been a totally different story.
They are fortunate, said Brown, as they live in a cement house with houses on all sides of them and a two-storey building behind, plus they are high up so there was no danger of flooding.
“We tied everything down – even the plants. We were as ready as we could be, and are still in pretty good shape as long as we get electricity. If we don’t have it by the end of next week, it could be a problem but by then, the stores will be open.
“The wind was just whipping around, and that went on through the night. When there is no electricity it is so hot, so we didn’t really sleep well. You doze off, and listen to the wind.
“Now, in the aftermath, you are covered in this thin sheen of sweat, and everything in the house is covered in moisture. Thankfully, we can go out back, and sit out of the sun as we have a cement top over our back yard. We also
have a tank on the roof and a hose runs from there so you can wash.
“We didn’t get damage to the house, but somehow the wind came under the eaves and took some of the paint off. It did more damage on the street over from us. We went for a walk around the neighbourhood, and there is a car and a palm tree landed on top of it. Two streets over one of the light poles is gone.”
Brown said they had been warned that if they lost power, it could be weeks or months before it was restored, but by Monday she was able to go back to the academy, which had been closed since Tuesday. She said the school has a generator and a water tank.
She said they did have some little canisters of gas at the house, as well as some sterno, and could also use the barbecue for cooking so figured they would be having a lot of hot dogs.
“We are going to have to clean our fridge out, and put everything in the freezer. We don’t have a lot of perishables because we knew this was coming. We are doing fine. It depends how long this goes.
“We will eventually run out of gas for the stove, but we have the barbecue, and our neighbours across the street have a generator, so we can go over there.”
Brown said people back home in Canada probably knew a lot more about what was going on with Hurricane Irma than they did, because they had no access to radio or television.
While land lines were not working, Brown said she was surprised to find that when she plugged in an old corded phone she had purchased for $6.99, she was able to receive calls, even though they could not call out.
She said they had been charging their cell phones in the car, just leaving the engine running long enough to do that, but are now going to do some research into solar chargers.
She recalled other hurricanes which have hit Puerto Rico since she has been living there and said she remembered Hugo well as they were without electricity for about a month while they lost their back roof with George when three other roofs blew on top of it.
“We are getting to the point where we are really bored now, because there is nothing we can do. Now they are getting into a problem with a lot of looting, but here we are still pretty good. We have bars on the windows and doors.”
Brown visited family in New Brunswick this summer for the first time in four years returning to Puerto Rico July 12 as school opened the first week in August.