Tag Archives: tropical storm preparation

Cyclone Sleep

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.

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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.

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The Bearded One was awake then, too, and together we nailed the storm sheet back up. He fell asleep soon thereafter.

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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.

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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.

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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 —

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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.

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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.

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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 —

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a beautiful palm, an ugly cedar, a loathsome albizia, and 3 or 4 big ohias.

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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.

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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.”

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Ten Glugs

The Bearded One is all soaped up in the shower when the generator runs out of gas. I know because I am sitting by the lantern in kitchen with our son, His Majesty, and the electric fan stops. Then I hear the Bearded One whistle for help. “Oh no!” I cry. I spring into action.

This is a clear “Mom” overreaction to the generator stopping, and His Majesty lets me know. “Sheesh, Mom. Calm down.” He is yoga man, but he is also a naturally calm soul whose chill presence in the kitchen at Kalani has gotten him promoted to trainer already. He gets up and turns on his headlamp. “I’ll go fill it up.”

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“Thank you!!”

He pats me on the shoulder, says, “It’s okay, really,” and walks through the dining room, which no longer houses our inflatable bed, but is full of solar panels

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which we’d hoped to install today, but Tropical Storm Wali has been bearing down on us all week, the tin roof’s wet and too dangerous to walk on, and tonight the rain is supposed to be torrential.

The Bearded One has been preparing for the storm all week, including building a rain-proof box for the solar batteries. He loves storms. Lately, it’s just been hot and humid. The storm was due at 6pm. It’s 7:30 now. The Bearded One gave up and got into the shower.

I run to the bathroom to let him know help is on the way. I am a bit frantic, I admit. This week, on top of the storm preparations and the solar panel delivery, our tiny electrical system died, so we had no running water in the house for a couple of days until Tom told us how to hook the pump directly to the second generator. For those days, we hauled water from the decrepit old open catchment tank (new one due to be delivered this week) to flush the toilet

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and drove the 2 miles to Tom’s for a shower. I heated potable water on our propane stove for washing dishes. Living off-grid means learning your own infrastructure really well, hauling in drinking water (8+ pounds per gallon…), monitoring the propane supply, and the ethanol-free gas for the generator, and it’s still a bit overwhelming to me.

“How are you doing?” I ask my sudsy sweetie.

“Tell His Majesty that from the small gas can, the generator takes just ten glugs, and then it’s almost full.” His mind is still under the house, where he was juggling fuel cans and engines and electrical wiring all day with His Majesty while Tom installed the fourth window upstairs.

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I spent the afternoon cooking a spaghetti casserole while Tom’s dog Rufus watched me from the lanai and waited for the drippings.

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All of us took timeouts to check the radar on the computer to see how the storm was materializing. Up to 12 inches, some said, but it seemed to be dissipating. Still there was plenty of flood risk, which energized the Bearded One. Our house is kind of down in a hole.

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“Once the lava is saturated,” he said to me with absolute earnestness, “all hell will break loose!”

“Got it,” I say, race to the storage room window which is right above the generator, shout “Just 10 glugs!” His Majesty shouts, “Okay!” and the generator is going again in minutes. He comes in and we resume our conversation in front of the fan, which is a lifesaver with no breezes and humidity that turns cardboard limp as tissue. This is the tropics.

Rain drops begin to plunk and then pound on the tin roof. His Majesty’s eyes flicker under his headlamp and he smiles. “I love that sound,” he says.

“Here it comes!” shouts the Bearded One from the bathroom.

We laugh. “He is so funny,” I say.

His Majesty agrees. “His timing is great.” Then he gets his guitar and walks out to the dark lanai. It’s 7:40 and we’re heading to bed before too long. No TV, no lamps. The Bearded One sits on the lanai, too, listening to the rain and the guitar music and even plays some himself. It’s been a long time since he’s touched a guitar. I can feel his happiness.

When the rain stops, we listen to the ocean, which is extra loud, crashing into the lava cliffs of the Puna coast less than a mile away. “Concussive,” he says, giddy. “Want to go to the ocean? See if we can get blasted?”

I say to the boys, “Probably time to go shut down that generator. Save the gas.”

“Almost ready, my sweets,” says the Bearded One. “Just one more glug.”

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