Mid-afternoon on Friday, October 17th, we waited for the storm to pick up. The wind was howling, but not with the force we expected later. We kept track of Gonzalo across the island by viewing the webcam set up at Dockyard and the radar map on the Bermuda weather website. Also through conversations with friends across the island via text messaging and Facebook. As long as we had power, we were in touch.
The storm began to intensify on the other side of the island, but it wasn’t so bad where we were, on the lee side of the storm. Friends who live where the storm was hitting the hardest lost power around 4ish and so I lost them on Facebook, but still managed the occasional text message. And then our lights went out an hour or so later. Thankfully, Richard had just finished cooking dinner. We ate by candlelight.
The storm was still not too bad looking out over the North Shore, so we moved a couple of chairs in front of the patio doors to watch the trees swaying and the rain pelting as it got dark. When there was no more light outside we decided it would not be a good place to be sitting when the winds escalated, and escalate they did.
As the wind bashed around outside, we sat by the light of candles and lantern, reading, playing games, talking. Richard made tea on the camp stove. We sipped our hot drink, and then just before 9:00pm, everything got eerily still. “This must be the eye of the storm,” I said. And so it was. No wind. No noise. It was a bit creepy, but also a relief after hours of howling winds. The quiet lasted for over an hour. It felt as if the storm was over. But of course it was not. As the wind began to pick up again we went to bed.
I startled awake around midnight. Doors rattled. The fireplace rumbled. Trees cracked. Wind bellowed. Sounds I had never heard before stole my sleep from me and they unnerved me. I noticed light in the living room. Richard had been up for an hour already and was reading by lantern light. We wandered around the house. Water was blowing in through the closed doors so we jammed towels in front of them. The wind was sucking water out of the toilets. At edge of the kitchen windows water gurgled. Outside was pitch black so we could see nothing, but we could hear the deluge. The sounds outside were deafening and frightening. We looked at each other in the dim light of the lantern. “This is scary,” we both said.
Eventually I went back to bed and fell asleep to the sound of Gonzalo at his worst. In the morning I woke up around 6:00 and he had gone. Trees still swayed in the wind, but gently. I stepped on the patio to look around. Blue sky peeked through clouds painted pink by the sunrise. White caps swelled across the water. On land, trees were downed, our neighbours’ stone railing was completely destroyed, twigs and leaves were strewn about. And that was just in our small corner of the island. Later in the day we rode around the island and saw distressing destruction, magnificent trees pulled up by their roots, roofs with gaping holes where tiles used to be, traffic lights knocked over, wires down, and strewn about everywhere was foliage, twigs, and dead and dying greenery.
The cleanup has begun, electricity is being restored, and neighbours are helping one another recover. We do not yet have full power, nor water, but today we are borrowing a neighbour’s generator so we can get our fridge cold again, and so we can have access to the Internet. Last night we had dinner with a group of friends at the home of one of them who luckily had power restored. In our conversations, it didn’t matter how often we changed the subject, the topic inevitably veered to our night with Gonzalo. We all need time to process what we went through. Living through an experience like this draws people together and for the support of our friends I am extremely grateful.