After our second night staying on campus, we woke up from the patient examination tables we were sleeping on and found everyone else in the other ICM rooms gone. It was 9am and the hurricane alert has ended. We walked outside to a sunny blue sky and nice breezy weather. Yet, all around us laid the evidence of the storm of the day before. We did not know what to expect to see.
Knowing that the weather was safe, I headed home as I yearned for a shower and a change of clothes. On my way back, the landscape seemed a little different. All the trees leaned one way and many had even fallen. The road was filled with debris and several signs, light fixtures, and poles had fallen. As I entered my apartment complex, I noticed all the palm trees had been barren, with their leaves scattered in the pool and the parking lot.
Luckily, my apartment was fine. Being on the fifth floor, I was not worried about flooding. My cat greeted me at the door as I walked into the hot and humid apartment. Power was still out, and I was sweating all over. I jumped into the shower without much hesitation. The water was cold but I did not care. I was glad that at least I had water and it felt good.
I met up with some friends to walk around the neighborhood and explore the damage left by the hurricane. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Certainly there was flooding here and there, debris on the ground, and a few trees and poles knocked down, but it sure wasn’t Katrina, Andrew, or Luis. It sure wasn’t a disaster zone, and repair I’d imagine would not take long. By 12 pm, the government-issued curfew was lifted, cars began showing up on the streets, we began hearing the sounds of the airplanes landing and taking off in the distance, and workers began to clear the debris from the streets.
Looking out to Mullet Bay Beach from campus, the water seemed a lot lighter, as if the sand had swept away into the ocean. We headed across the golf course to check out the water. A lot of the seawater had swept onto the golf course and left the white sand from the beach on the grass. Seaweed laid everywhere, and the waves remained large. We ran into some fellow students collecting coconuts that had fallen from the trees during the hurricane. They were cracking the coconuts on a rock and offered me some fresh coconut meat to try. The meat was ripe and rich, and after two days of eating canned goods in the shelter, eating the wind-picked fresh coconut was an extra indulging experience.
By 12pm, the school began functioning again and resumed orientation and registration, which was abruptly cut short a few days ago with the incoming hurricane. BB’s Grill and Sugar Cane Cafe opened up their businesses again, and the school cafeteria began cooking and offering free food to the AUC community. I was pretty excited to eat real food.
Looking back, the past few days had been quite an experience. Arif, Jubin, Peter, Joseph, and I were the few Orientation Advisors who arrived right before the storm who stayed in the shelter. Because of this, we helped out a lot in monitoring and running the shelter. The first night was quite fun and relaxing as we only had 59 people. But by the second night, after the worst part of the storm, many people who stayed off-campus during the storm began arriving onto campus, seeking a shelter with internet access, power, air conditioning, and most importantly, other people. It became increasingly busier for the faculty, staff, and OAs as we tried to document all who are on campus, who are staying, and who are leaving (for liability purposes). With more people, the food had to be replaced faster and the trash accumulated equally as fast. It became more and more difficult finding places for people to sleep. Eventually, we opened up the individual ICM rooms (each which have 2-4 cushioned patient examination tables) for families to stay in. With more people, there were more matters to attend to, and we were constantly on our feet throughout the rest of the evening. Some of the faculty, staff, and OAs had to take shifts sleeping. With teamwork and the special efforts of the faculty and staff of the emergency response team and the OAs, it all worked out in the end.
Now as I write this, I begin my life as a student again tomorrow morning at 8am. Many students have already arrived, and many more will come in tomorrow as their flights were rescheduled. I look forward again to a new semester and a new level of challenge to face.
Here is some video footage of the area after Hurricane Earl:
Here are some photos I took around the neighborhood of the aftermath of Hurricane Earl: