It’s 2am and I am wide awake listening to Hurricane Iselle blowing across the Puna coastline less than a mile away. The Bearded One sleeps next to me like a baby.
I’ve been wired since 9:30 when I thought the house was crashing in, but it was just the wind blowing out the plywood sheet from one of the big new windows upstairs.
The Bearded One was awake then, too, and together we nailed the storm sheet back up. He fell asleep soon thereafter.
Since then, I’ve listened alone to the wild rhythmic shuttering and slamming of the tin roof, and pondered the fate of our solar panels, installed just two days ago on the upper north roof.
The Bearded One, our son, and our friend Tom worked all day Tuesday hauling the nine 35-pound thin-film photovoltaic panels up two ladders and connecting them to the previously installed framework. The panels are made to withstand wind and rain, but not palm trees falling on them.
Hurricane Iselle (followed by Hurricane Julio) has been bearing down on us all week, the first hurricane to hit any of the Islands in 22 years, and the first in more than a century for the Big Island. Because of its cold, deep coastline waters (hurricanes like warm water) and our two gigantic volcanoes, such a direct hit is quite rare. The locals are all justifiably hesitant to get worked up, but Iselle hasn’t veered or weakened, and the schools —
which just started on Tuesday, were closed today for storm preparation. It’s also two days before the primary election.
After we boarded the windows, we spent the evening listening to the radio – the internet was already out – and eating storm candy I’d bought. We sat on the lanai in the breeze and noticed the lack of mosquitoes. The wind began to pick up and we repeatedly saw lightning that lit the sky up aqua.
Then we came inside to the dining room, where we moved our trusty inflatable mattress again after the solar panels moved out, and went to bed.
Now the wind is absolutely screaming. I watch the 12-inch diameter mango tree just off our lanai bend and flop like a rag doll.
The head of the mattress is against the northeast wall of the house, looking directly toward the ocean. I turn over and get up on my knees to look out the windows and, unbelievably, in the light of the full moon, see 70 foot palm trees in our front yard blown horizontal, bending like dandelions, the wind is so terrible. The straining, creaking, breaking up sounds coming from the metal roofing are other-worldly. Impossibly big and scary.
“Sweetheart! You have to see this!” I am not afraid for my life, but the irony of this whole situation is killing me. The Bearded One is the storm freak, he who longs to be blasted by immense ocean waves, and he is sleeping through this.
He groggily agrees and slowly props himself up enough to bear witness. “Wow,” he says. He watches for maybe a minute. Then he goes back to sleep instantly and sleeps until an hour after sunrise, after I’d been up and assessed the damage. The solar panels are okay! We lost trees —
a beautiful palm, an ugly cedar, a loathsome albizia, and 3 or 4 big ohias.
A big palm is leaning down against another palm, threatening to just let go and crash down onto the ancient above-ground swimming pool serving still as our water catchment tank. The new one’s been delivered but isn’t all hooked up yet. If the pool gets crunched, we’ll have no plumbing water.
All of Puna is without power, internet and phone, and it will be weeks in some areas before it gets restored. No one was killed or even seriously injured, and the final wind measurement was 70 mph, bumping it down to a Tropical Storm from Hurricane. I can hardly imagine the blinding intensity of a 100 mph wind. The house wouldn’t be standing. Not in a direct hit.
When I get back inside, the Bearded One is finally awake. He rolls over, then pushes himself up off the floor mattress, an inch, another inch, higher and higher, until he is at last standing. He puffs up his chest and raises his arms triumphantly – ta da! – into the Olympian “V”.
“You survived the storm!” I say.
He beams with his accomplishment and says, “I stuck the landing.”