Independent Canadian book publishers working in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Dear friends,
To break with our routine and hurricane related things, this post is about something else – although surely hurricane Maria still plays its role in many aspects of life – this one included.

Some of you may remember that every year we organize international photo competition under patronage of such important organizations as RPS, FIAP, PSA and others. This year was no exception – although it was totally different and we will remember it for a long time.

The hurricane Maria made our 5th edition of Ozone Zone International Photo Competition much harder to run. Originally scheduled for November, judging of submitted photos had to be postponed.

One juror had to be emergency evacuated to another island as her family member required immediate medical treatment of hurricane inflicted injuries. Another juror had to bring family out of Dominica – also due to hurricane impact. And another juror along with Salon’s chair person – Derek and Margaret (which is us) lost their newly built house, many personal belongings, and were living in their Subaru car for several weeks after. Not the perfect scenario for finalizing a prestigious photo salon.

We rescheduled closing of the Salon to end of March, but even that proved to be a real challenge.
Although all jurors had a chance to meet and work together after sorting personal matters, it wasn’t exactly smooth.


Eight months on we still have no internet (to post this or deal with online salon submissions we need to travel to another town in hope of finding a spot with reasonable connection). The house we used for judging is badly damaged and leaks with every rain. We reviewed photos on a smallish monitor and a laptop (computer and big screen used before were damaged) using generator as the source of electricity, without running water or any other conveniences.

Reviewing all photos submitted from all corners of the planet while we felt cut-off from the rest of the world had been almost surreal experience. Seeing so many really fine photographs was uplifting and inspiring, reminding us that there is still room for creativity and beauty in our world – and that daily chores do not need to always end with using chainsaw or any other tools we used so extensively to survive the past months.

It was a good edition of our Salon although we nicknamed it “the Hurricane Edition”.
Now we are just finishing off all related duties such as sending medals and awards, reports to FIAP, PSA and other photo organizations, and so on.

We want to share with you a few best photos in hope they will give you lots of viewing pleasure.
You can see much more on competition’s website www.internationalphotocompetition.com on page WINNERS. This year’s categories were OPEN, LOVE, PORTRAIT and NUDE, MONOCHROME.
Enjoy, and until next time.

Derek and Margaret

Please note – all images are copyrighted, no usage without authors’ written authorization.

Advertisements

Things are busier than ever these days. Partly due to rebuilding our destroyed home which is a tedious process slowed down by shortage of building materials and qualified professionals. And partly due to amount of work on our everyday plate. You know, we do many different things on top of our “real” professions. Photographing things around us is more intense than ever – it is time of fascinating changes after the hurricane. Balance of things in nature changes frequently, so does the look of the whole island. We try to document as many such changes as possible for local use and also to offer on Getty/iStock sites.

African Tulip tree in full bloom

Then we need to take care of five dogs which became part of our family after the hurricane. The newest addition – a small puppy we found hungry, full of flies, half-dead on streets of Roseau proved to be real challenge, for it had a nasty Parvovirus our other dogs picked up. Vet visits, treatments, nursing sick dogs -a real zoo – you can imagine. All ended happily, and thanks for that because other work just piled up.

Fascinating shapes created in our forest by aggressively growing vines

For last several months I am involved in filming documentary material for one of big-wig nature movie TV producers (more about it is another subject requiring a separate post later on). So, I film with our drones using GPS routing for elaborate aerial time lapse video showing progress of nature healing itself. That requires regular trips to different spots on the island, over and over.
Then we had the photo competition to take care of, another article for MACO Caribbean Lifestyle magazine, several smaller photo-shoots, and so on.

Mountain Chicken frog in Dominica

And just recently, with production of a short movie for Discover Dominica Authority in mind, we photographed and filmed beautiful Dominica Jaco parrots and endangered “Mountain Chicken” frog. That proved to be both challenge and fun. Parrots are smart and playful creatures. Filming them up and close wasn’t exactly easy as they are constantly moving in unpredictable ways – but it is work like this which makes it living in Dominica such a great experience.

Jaco Parrot in Dominica

Therefore we want to share with you some of these photographs. If you plan to visit Dominica, maybe you will see these parrots yourself. We hope you will. But hey – for now you can at least enjoy these photos.
Until next time!

Derek and Margaret

Please respect the copyright, ask for permission before using any of these images.
Thank you!

Jaco parrot in Dominica

Derek’s work can be seen on www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

Many things have changed since the hurricane, both on the island of Dominica and in our lives.

This is the same tree shown in part one of our hurricane notes  – remember it? if not – compare. https://ozonezonebooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/in-the-eye-of-cyclone-our-encounter-with-hurricane-maria/ it was bare – now starts to shoot new leaves but is almost completely covered in vines

 

Pumpkin grows now everywhere! Even on this shattered by hurricane van.

Nature tries to bounce back, but visibly things got a bit out of natural balance. We had a wave of mosquito infestation – which thankfully seems to be ending. Then we had a plague of butterflies – so many of them – white, brown, orange. Looks lovely but their eggs hatching means lots of fragile flora struggling to get back is being eaten on the spot. That should stabilize too. As for plants – bushes and smaller plants are bouncing back nicely, but many bigger and older trees are still in shock, with broken limbs and leafless. The clear winner of this post-hurricane period are vines. They spread everywhere, strangling smaller trees. When you look around you see the rich greenery and thing all is back to normal. But most green you see are bindweed- “morning glory” plants, various wild peas and wild cucumbers – and also – in some unimaginable way – pumpkins! They took over, growing everywhere, in most unlikely places. Practically everyone has now several healthy pumpkins around the house. At least this – with shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables – is welcome bonus.

I bet when bigger trees restore their branches and put more leaves, the resulting shade will give many vines checkmate, but it may still be some time away. Parrots – homeless and hungry – migrated from devastated old forest to more populated areas. They add lots of chatter to the sounds of nature, but surely they would be more happy back in primary forest. One day soon, perhaps.

A parrot near our home

Many things change around us, a visible progress is being made. Roads get cleaned, debris removed, Roseau city getting a face lift here and there. Plenty still to be done – an overwhelming task. Our favourite Fort Young Hotel perhaps leads the progress, already partially open for guests while working on impressive upgrades. This is the resilience in making – taking advantage of destruction not to just rebuild, but to make things better. Much better. It is uplifting to watch these fast-paced works. We just finished a sent of new promotional photos for them, proud to be part of this rebuilding effort. Feels good to see our photos in Washington Post and in other media.

Fort Young Hotel – looks better than ever. It is nice to see our photos help promote this place and Dominica.

So things are changing for us. We’ve got used to lack of electricity and using our Coleman gasoline lamp in evenings. It is actually quite nice, like old times. A small generator sent to us by our old, reliable friend Les takes care of charging batteries, laptop, or running our bread mixer – talk about power lines being fixed in our area sounds almost unreal. Hard to imagine having power constantly on – an excess luxury!

We started (in part thanks to help received from many of you!) to rebuild our home, and we know it will be a challenging task – building materials are hard to get, the port – still shattered after hurricane seems not capable to process promptly all incoming shipments – resulting in weeks if not months long – delays in supply stream. But life goes on. We published more articles including another one for MACO magazine – this time about progress of cleanup works in Dominica and new opportunities created by hurricane, and we now work on another story.

Barbados Atlantic shore – from the latest shooting trip.

Another photography job for Barbados tourism allowed us a glimpse at the “normal” world. What a weird place – all roofs are intact, trees green and happy, no mess to clean-up. We almost forgot how it can be.

Another scene from Barbados


We keep documenting all changes, photographing and filming with drone the progress around us. As more creative work is on the horizon we will keep you posted with new developments soon. Stay tuned!

Derek and Margaret

PS. Thank you to all friends who helped us financially in this critical time. If you still want to add your brick to rebuilding our lives, here is our paypal link  www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you!

African Tulip tree starts to bloom, bringing colour to forests first time after hurricane


Please respect our copyright. if you want to re-use photos, ask for authorization.

This part of forest washed by flood waters will take longer to recover. Near hot sulphur springs in Soufrier.

Trees start to have green leaves again – the same tree as on first hurricane post. compare them!

It is now two and half months after the hurricane. Sometimes it feels like all that was just a bad dream. But you don’t need to look long to actually realize you are still in post-hurricane zone. Our road was cleared by an excavator, but it is badly broken and driving is quite dangerous. Everywhere you drive you pass broken poles, debris and damaged remains of cars mixed with piles of mud. The green is back, but it mostly is just the morning glory taking over every empty space created by fallen trees. Yes, nature heals quickly, but the landscape will stay different for a long time, before it gets back to previous harmonious balance. Also wildlife will recover, but for now you can spot hungry parrots flying over villages they would never visit before. They, same as hummingbirds, other birds and animals are hungry, misplaced and desperate to find some sort of food. Even our dogs are still under visible stress, barking at night and anxious during the day.

trees on a starry night – stumps get their first leaves again.

Some say that around 20,000 people left the island. Such number would make about a quarter of the whole population, and the long term economic impact of such exodus is yet to be seen. One thing is clear – this all will change our island for years to come.

one of many dumping places for damaged roofing materials

We all feel things slowly get back to normal – but is it really so, or we just get used to this situation that we accept it as the “new normal”? Truth is probably somewhere between.

As for our situation, we notice that even simple tasks take longer and require more energy. Dealing with insurance, driving, baking our bread – it is now more effort than before. Yes, we do have a small generator, but it only runs our fridge and couple of small lamps, so all work needs to be finished before darkness – making our days shorter. Yes, we just restored a basic line of running water to the kitchen, but the kitchen itself is wrecked and we do most food preparations outdoors.

our rented house used to be totally covered by green. now it slowly gets the green cover once again

Margaret and an uprooted bamboo

Soon it will be time to decide about rebuilding of our new, shattered home. But this has too its new challenges – material shortages, enormous delays at the port and damaged roads will make the process much more tricky than before. We don’t complain – merely observe. Many others had it much worse than us, and now together with a friend, a BBC cameraman, we are recording interviews about the hurricane experiences. Some stories we hear are so shocking that it is even hard to listen – yet people say their experience in simple words, like stating simple facts about life – and sometimes death.

Damaged piano – another victim of hurricane Maria

Once again we realize that the hurricane itself – while really scary – was just the beginning. At least for us, it is the long months of years ahead which prove to be the real challenge. With no regular power and no internet we can npt do our normal work – editing photography and video, writing, sending files to clients, and so on. We are professionally crippled, and can only rely on generosity of management in Fort Young Hotel, which – despite being seriously damaged and hosting only a few teams of various international aid groups – but otherwise closed for business until restored – allows us and other local professionals to leech their wi-fi internet – our only and rare moments of contact with the rest of the world…

Hurricane brought also some beauty – a picturesque ship wreck near Portsmouth

So, the dust finally starts to settle and more and more people get grip of their situation. Some decide to stay, many decide to go abroad, some businesses opening but many to be never seen again – you can feel we are at the cross roads. Hopefully there will be a visible recovery, but now it is all in the air. It will be fascinating to watch and participate in rebuilding this tiny island. But it will be difficult and long process. We quite understand those who already left Dominica, and hope we will not have to. We are ready for the next challenge…

Despite intense cleanup, you still can see many scenes like this…

Please subscribe to see more photos and read our next posts.
Thank you!
Margaret Gajek
www.ozonezonebooks.com
Derek Galon
www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

If you wish to help us in this difficult situation, you can do so by using link
www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you.

Please respect copyright of this story and photos. Contact us if you need to reuse this material.

Tags:  #hurricanemaria  #hurricane #maria #tropicalstorms #dominicastrong #dominica

Dutch Marines coming

In roofless kitchen every cupboard, every mug and plate is covered with dirt and shredded leaves. I am surprised to find that our tightly closed spice jars are half-full of water pumped in under enormous pressure.

It is hard to believe two weeks already passed since the hurricane Maria. We are still spending lots of time sorting our things drenched in muddy water. It takes hours to pull them out, dry them in the sun, clothing spread on branches of our broken mango tree. In the roofless kitchen every cupboard, every mug and plate is covered with dirt and shredded leaves. I am surprised to find that our tightly closed spice jars are half-full of water pumped in under enormous pressure. Nothing stayed dry.

Soaked, messed boxes of stuff ready for our moving – now ready for garbage bin.

destroyed chapel at Retreat House

I am opening soaked boxes only recently packed to move to our new home – now totally destroyed by hurricane. In a dry weather we burn wet packaging, discoloured moldy clothes, destroyed furniture. Our neighbours, the Retreat House, kindly offered us a dry room to store the few things we managed to salvage. We are at the retreat house unloading boxes when we hear loud engines of approaching helicopter – a large Dutch military craft. Two uniformed figures descend on a steel line. They came from St Maarten hit by hurricane Irma and can compare. Dominica was hit much stronger, they say. They are looking for a Dutch couple living nearby to check if they are OK. They left only to come back soon with food for all of us – cans of beans, juice and rice. We laugh saying it will make the most expensive dinner in our lives.

How this tiny stream could turn to the nasty river? All these rocks were brought by water, damaging all homes around…

We are tired of experiencing a waterfall in our living room with every rain, so we decide to call village rastas for help making a temporary roof cover. We hear there is one store in town selling metal galvanized sheets for roofing. We can’t possible go there – our road is still blocked. We decide to find all our old pieces of galvanage and patch them together.

Typical scene of destruction

Finding them is not easy – some are blown away as far as the bottom of the ravine. Dragging them through bushes is a daunting task. We gather wooden rafters and metal sheets scattered around the house and go searching. I found a good sheet of galvanage, but it is stuck on a tree. We are out of luck for this one. After two days of hard work the job is done. To celebrate it, we spend the first night since the hurricane in our own bed. What a luxury, comparing to three weeks spent in our car!

Margaret walks on main street of Soufriere…

Step by step with much effort, our lives slowly improve. We made our pizza oven work again and bake our European bread. We can’t deliver it yet to shops, but we simply share it with neighbours and people in our village. An old friend of ours shipped a new generator as a gift – this will surely make big difference. Another friend invited us to see page www.gofundme.com and do search for Derek Galon. She organized a donation fund to help us, with friends and total strangers chipping in! Some other friends sent us their individual donations. Each such thing feels like a miracle. Gestures like that not only help rebuild our lives, but also show us much needed support. We are full of gratitude and appreciation. And we feel even more motivated not to fail.

While path to Emerald Pool is now cleared, the waterfall looks like set in middle of forest clear-cut

Soon we will be able to drive again – a hired excavator is clearing the road. We are invited to a bbq chicken party at village’s roofless bar. Everybody share their hurricane stories. There is a strong sense of togetherness which makes it easier to face days ahead.

 

 Please subscribe to see more photos and read next part soon.
Thank you!
Margaret Gajek
www.ozonezonebooks.com
Derek Galon
www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

If you wish to help us in this difficult situation, you can do so by using link
www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you.

Please respect copyright of this story and photos. Contact us if you need to reuse this material.

Tags:  #hurricanemaria  #hurricane #maria #tropicalstorms #dominicastrong #dominica

 

Center of Roseau

what remained of our bedroom and new home. most belongings were later stolen

Margaret checking damage morning after hurricane

First weeks after Hurricane Maria are really tough for us. Not only because watching such an enormous destruction of the island hurts the soul, but also because simple everyday tasks combined with the challenge of survival require a lot of energy and effort. We have no roof – rain comes inside making a waterfall in the living room. We are trying to save our possessions moving them to dryer corners and covering them with plastic bags. With so much messy water our Syrian furniture are disintegrating, books melting away, clothes discoloring and moldy, photo equipment malfunctioning. Evening by evening, wet and tired we retreat to our car where we sleep.

Preparing food for lunch

There is no running water in the house, all pipes are broken. We’ve made a simple contraption to catch rain water for washing, and thankfully we have a bit of drinking water left. With our bathroom shattered we wash outside using a cup of water per person. But we need to cut our way through fallen jungle quick, to get drinking water from a nearby the spring. Day after day we make progress cutting bit by bit using our small chainsaw and cutlass. After ten days of exhausting work we can hardly move our hands. Derek says I am looking like a ladybug, covered with neat round bruises from heavy branches I had to pull out of our way. Finally we cleared our way to the neighbouring Retreat House.

Derek and Brother George from Retreat House clearing path to the spring

Seeing our neighbours for the first time since hurricane, we learn that the road to village is blocked by many land slides. What used to be an easy walk to the spring, is now a serious hike. With heavy backpacks we need to cross fallen trees, landslides and surprisingly deep mud ponds. Broken bamboo make haunting, eerie sound. There is profound silence – no birds and no sound of leaves. Leafless trees don’t provide shelter from the scorching sun.

Collecting water from the spring

However, we had to undertake this hike to village soon, for we were told at the top of village road we can sometimes get mobile phone reception. I’ve always liked to walk this road from Retreat House to the village, enjoying lush vegetation. There was always cool here, even on the hottest of days. Now it’s very different. Countless trees uprooted from the hillside fell to the ground. It it difficult to climb over them. Although we both have cutlasses, we make a slow progress. Dense clusters of fallen bamboo with their sharp prickly branches are especially hard to cross.

On the path to the village

I turned another corner and stopped in awe: what used to be a sleepy creek became a raging torrent during the hurricane and made this wide white valley full of huge boulders blocking the road. We finally reach the village. The view from the road takes our breath away. This immense destruction we see has a suffocating effect on us. Destroyed roofless houses, concrete walls crumbled, lots of debris, countless landslides are all around, as far as an eye can see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Destruction of Eggleston

We call our family and friends. Hearing their voices in this scenery of desolation feels surreal. I am happy to hear them but it’s very difficult to describe in a few words what we’ve been through. Soon we have no money left on our cell phones. For top-ups we need to hike to Roseau; the road is not cleared yet – it will take us at least four hours one way. We head back home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Drying our salvaged stuff on broken mango tree.

Our generator broke after only three days of working, so we have no power. As we need to clean food supplies from our dead fridge, we have a feast lasting for two days. I spread spoiled mango jam on the grass for bees and other insects – there is nothing for them to feed on. I can see unripened fruits scattered by hurricane on the ground. Most fruit trees are damaged, but even these standing will have no fresh fruit crop for half a year. Feeding five dogs is a challenge. There were only two dogs with us during hurricane. The rest disappeared day before hurricane on one of their adventures. Now they are coming back, exhausted, frightened and hungry.

_DSC3676

Our dogs have fun on broken mango tree

Friends from the village brought us canned food and horrific stories about many deaths and miracle survivals. They also heard that our newly built house on the hillside is totally destroyed – only one wall still standing. What if we spent the hurricane night there? I am afraid to think what might happen to us. Our friends leave soon – the hike back to village is long and dangerous after dark.

DJI_0063

Remains of Champagne Beach facilities

We get up with the first rays of light – just after 5 am. The gas stove still works. We can cook our simple meals in roofless kitchen while it is not raining. We eat on a small patio with roof still on, sharing food with always hungry dogs.

_DSC3824

Cleanup of Roseau

It is remarkable how quickly one can adjust. Life in a shattered house, in conditions unworthy a basic camp site is quickly accepted as the new normal, just the way things are. We live on…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of trees we had to cut to get to Retreat House

This story covers first two weeks after #HurricaneMaria. Another part coming soon. Please subscribe to see more photos and read next part soon.
Thank you!
Margaret Gajek
www.ozonezonebooks.com
Derek Galon
www.ArtPhotographyServices.com

If you wish to help us in this difficult situation, you can do so by using link
www.paypal.me/DerekGalon
Thank you.

Please respect copyright of this story and photos. Contact us if you need to reuse this material.

Tags:  #hurricanemaria  #hurricane #maria #tropicalstorms #dominicastrong #dominica

We wanted to post things many times, always too busy to do it. But now, with the hurricane – we just have to share with you this story. And – after 5 weeks since it we just got an internet connection to use for a few moments –  so, here it is…

There are as many stories about Hurricane Maria as many people lived through this monstrous experience. While ours is not the most terrible ordeal, for we survived uninjured, we want to share our memories with you. This is my humble addition to all told and untold stories – Margaret’s and Me being in cyclone’s eye in Dominica. This short story is dedicated to all directly hit by Caribbean hurricanes of 2017.

IMG-20171020-WA0000

Path of Maria – born to kill. She turned from her path just to go through whole length of Dominica with maximum impact. The red point is where our both houses were.

Day 0 – Monday (18th of September 2017)
When the shockingly nasty hurricane Irma chopped through Caribbean islands some 10 days before, it went very close to Dominica but didn’t really hit it. We all on our small island breathed easier. Perhaps too easy. A new tropical storm announced by media supposed to be not so bad, and again not to go over Dominica. Lots of us didn’t pay attention to it, thinking that after Irma the worst is over. Well, not exactly. It wasn’t. Reports eventually changed, but until last moment we were told that while Tropical
Storm Maria may become a hurricane by time of crossing through Leeward Islands, it should be a small one and pass off the Dominica coast, somewhere on the sea closer to Guadelupe. We should just get some rain and a bit of wind. Terrible misjudgments by meteo services made us just mildly worried. Somehow it reminded me of misinformation about the terrible storm Erika which damaged our island some two years before. Then too we were told the path of the storm should be east of Dominica, not affecting us directly. It was just at the last hour before it devastated our little country that instead of
promised safe passage, Erica showed on meteo maps hitting us directly. Way too late to do anything.

morning-after-hurricane---view-from-our-house

morning after hurricane. Shocking landscape near our home.

So it was this time. Just hours before expected passage, on Sunday evening reports started to be a little more worrying – yes, Maria will be a hurricane soon and may intensify a bit. Not on direct conflict path with Dominica, but a bit stronger than expected. We planned to do some last minute shopping on Monday morning, also delivering our usual load of fine breads to food stores. But on Monday morning tone of alerts changed drastically. The Hurricane intensifies and may be a category 2 by the time of its closest encounter with Dominica. People were advised NOT to go shopping, businesses not to open, and to prepare for possible heavy winds. All shops, offices and work places closed, but we still were shown by online weather sites that the path of Maria will pass in some distance to us from the east.

our-old--Plantation-House

the home we rented – two days after hurricane. You can see our white subaru – which we used as bedroom for weeks to come.

Only one site showed a disturbing image of Maria passing through center of Dominica. Should the http://www.windy.com be right, or they were mistaken, since everybody else predicted a different path? We were to learn the truth very soon. Together with Margaret we experienced the Storm Erika, and also a terrible winter storm in Canada some 10 years ago. That one had wind speeds between 150 and 180 km/h flattening many trees and inflicting serious damage. That helped us recognizing wind speeds, and when in late afternoon things got pretty nasty, we could say clearly that we already have winds worthy a strong Tropical storm. Believing that the Maria will pass away from us, we expected these winds to stay with us until late night and then ease up. But they got stronger and stronger.

cutting-our-way-out

cutting our path to freedom – Margaret’s turn to use chainsaw

The old plantation house constructed solely of wood – the place we rent – did withstand previous hurricane David some 40 years ago, so we hoped it will cope with this one too. Power went out around 6pm, so we had no chance of checking any more storm details. It was easy to hear through closed shutters that wind was already stronger than we remembered from Canada (around 150-180km/h or 80-90 miles/h), and intensifying. By 8pm it became just unbearable. We had to fight with window shutters which were constantly bursting open, pushed by unbelievably strong winds. Every moment of an opened shutter meant heavy amounts of water sprayed inside like by a mega power-washer. The concoction of water mixed with soil, debris and finely shredded leaves and greenery. We heard trees falling, stuff flying around the house and crashing with heavy bangs, roof slowly giving up to the intense power of wind. We were sure it is as bad as it gets. At one point doors to bedroom rapidly opened, pushed by heavy wind coming through opened bedroom shutters. I rushed to close them, and to my shock I saw in light of my flashlight branches of a big tree slowly moving through opened window and spreading on our bed. In desperation I grabbed the tree trying to push it away, but quickly understood that my efforts are futile. The tree was there to stay. But then suddenly wind gust changed and pulled the tree outside, giving me a moment to close the shutters once again. Scared and exhausted, we were standing in the middle of the house, ready for yet another dramatic intervention. Little did we know that what we experienced was just a gentle flavour of things to come.

typical-scene-of-destruction

Typical scene of destruction

Suddenly at 9pm mad winds stopped like cut with a blade. First moment of it was amazing – total silence. Perfect stillness of the air. You could smoke a cigar and watch your puffs go up in perfect order. But then came realization that this silence can mean only one thing – we are in the eye of cyclone! Contrary to most predictions, hurricane went just above our heads. We knew we had only minutes to check and fix whatever we can before the fun starts again. But when it started some 15 minutes later, very quickly it became obvious that real problems are starting just now. Wind came from another direction, from more exposed side – the Caribbean sea. Blows to the house were so strong that it shake and made noises like a crashing sail ship hitting a reef in heavy storm. Huge bang announced a direct hit by a large tree growing next to the house. Roof broke allowing cascades of water in. We had no way of intervening and had to retreat to another part of the house. However, that started a wild interaction of wind inside and outside, with shutters ripped out of their hinges, roof being pulled out with terrifying noise of ripped metal, and water mixed with debris and shredded leaves ravishing freely
inside the house. We both experienced that rare sensation when pressure changes so strongly and quickly, pushing your ear drums in very unpleasant way. Did you ever drive a car at about 180 km/h and rapidly open your window? Well, that kind of thing, only much stronger. To make it more memorable, through all the rain, wind, and banging of crashing things, we constantly heard outside a very distinct and unusual sound – like huge ship engines running at full blast in far distance. A constant deep roar of passing hurricane.

Retreat-House

Damage of Retreat House

The wind intensified further and kitchen shutters flew away ripped from their hinges. We had to retreat to another part of our home. Where would it be safest? Bathroom? No, we decided for a storage room and run there with our dog, closing door tightly. But it was just a few moments before Margaret shouted – “look at the ceiling! My God!”. Indeed – we could see in dim light of our flashlight that roof was pulled up by the wind several inches, then let go, and then again going up – only higher. Sound of breaking wood did not make us calmer, and we decided we need to run from that place before roof takes off.
A glimpse at the bathroom confirmed our decision not to go there – there was practically not much left of it! With our options down to only our bedroom still holding on, we went there and tried to secure shutters, knowing this is our last place to hide. The roof above us started to break, allowing water to come. Margaret made a quick and brilliant decision. Closets! Our bedroom has two built in tiny wardrobe closets, each about good for one standing person. We quickly pulled our clothes out and went inside, each of us in separate closet. Dog went between Margaret’s legs totally silent, quiet, and scared.
Last two hours we spent in these two closets, listening to the destruction around us and praying that closets will survive.

on-road-to-Roseau

Street near waterfront

Do you remember a scene from Jurassic Park, when a guy tries to hide from a T- rex, and runs from room to room, only to see the beast systematically tearing walls apart to get him? It was quite similar to what we felt. A monster, perhaps King Kong or Gozilla ravishing the house to get us. But at last – after midnight winds eased up a bit. Not much, but enough to notice the worst is over. It is funny how quickly you can adopt. We came out of our closets and decided to have a look around the house. Winds which normally would be still terrifying, but just a bit less than these we experienced an hour ago did not matter so much any more. We just knew things are getting calmer, and whatever did not break already will probably be ok. So, off we went for house inspection. Constant banging in the attic – several broken shutters and parts of roof torn away and allowing tonnes of water inside the upper floor, drowning our furniture and stuff just ready to move to our new home. Not good. Main floor – rain comes through the ceiling. But it is not just rain – it is the flood upstairs finding its way down through gaps in wooden floor. All furniture in living room wet and messed up. TV? Sound system? Well, you know – messed up to, like everything else. We noticed that old wooden beams holding the ceiling are bowing in under heavy flood waters upstairs. Not only the rain in living room
was not nice, but this looked like the attic may simply collapse, sending down water and all furniture and boxes stored there. That would bury our things and finish whatever remained from the house. A quick decision – chainsaw. We looked where the most of pouring water comes down, and cut an opening in wooden floor of main floor for water to run through. Then, an additional small cut in flooded attic – to let the water go down through that same location. We had instantly a waterfall in bedroom, with buckets of water coming down through the hole – and disappearing in the matching cut in main floor. At least temporarily – we saved the attic from collapse and reduced the flood of our
earthly possessions.

remainings-of-known-hotel

remains of a known hotel

Further inspection was very brief – nothing left of bathroom. Not much left of kitchen. Pantry without roof and all cupboards forced open, with all things inside soaked with mix of water, mud, and shredded leaves. Some broken windows in office, terrible mess and flood in dining room where roof was hit by falling tree. Unfortunately it was where we stored most of our freshly imported bread flour. Most of the supply gone. We were simply too tired to bother with it. We went to the bedroom and fell asleep on wet bed until late morning.

whats-left-of-kitchen-in-our-new-home

what’s left of our newly built home. in the kitchen area.

Day 1 – Tuesday
We woke up early, to the sound of water dripping in our bedroom and rest of the house. It was still very windy. Quickly dressed in some wet clothes, off we went to see the world outside. The damage exceeded our expectations and came as a shock to both of us. Margaret cried a little – not for our situation, but for the sad state of our island. The land around us was almost bare – broken trees everywhere with some stronger trees either completely uprooted, or having most limbs cracked off, pieces from our roof and roofs of some other houses mixed on the ground. Plenty of unrecognizable wet stuff on the ground. Smaller plants gone, most bushes stripped off all greenery, palms broken or
with tops twisted off. The brown-grey tone dominated all landscape, with green colour almost non- existent. Rain still falling, but even through its sound we distinctly heard the noise of newly formed rivers in ravines near us. With all greenery gone it was easy to see land slides. More land slides than intact soil. It was easy to see that what we experienced with tropical storm Erika two years was just a child’s play. Proportions of Erika damage times ten seemed like a correct estimate. Our road to Retreat House completely disappeared under fallen jungle. Several meters high jigsaw puzzle of broken branches, palms and trees. We could see the Retreat House totally smashed, with roof and some walls gone. A total disaster. Other houses visible on next hill looked similarly destroyed.
Well, our own house was also smashed. Garage and storage shed simply disappeared, water system in rubble. A big tree broke our roof, and other half of roof totally gone. Everything around scattered in one big mess.

one-of-many

Things seem to get upside down

Looking at the extreme extent of this disaster, with no radio or phone signal and unable to get any news, we quickly realized that perhaps the night of Hurricane was easy comparing with challenges waiting for us in next days, weeks, and months… We felt like Robinson Crusoe left alone on an empty island, trying to think how to organize things.
And then came days of desperate chainsawing our way out, fixing and drying damaged belongings, sorting salvaged food, learning about misfortunes of neighbours, and so on. Days of hard work and nights spent in our car which miraculously survived. A day when we went to see how is our newly built dream home we supposed to move into in the week following hurricane – only to discover that – despite it being built of concrete and super strong cement fiber elements – it was completely wiped out, attacked by hurricane with unprecedented fury and power. Days of pain and moments of happiness.
The spirit of sharing and mutual support, but also acts of looting. But – as they say – it is another story…
====
It was only some two weeks later – when Dutch marines arriving in helicopter to give us a bag of rice – that our thoughts were confirmed. It was indeed a monster hurricane – they said. It should be category 7, only there is no such thing on official charts. Winds up to 220 miles per hour (410 km/h). And the eye went through the whole length of Dominica. As they also helped on St Martin which has been the iconic disaster of hurricane Irma, they also said we had it much worse than that. How comforting to
know 😉  We also heard about many deaths and horror stories in other parts of Dominica, learning that we were indeed among the lucky ones. With that come realization that – if we moved to our new house earlier and faced the hurricane there – we would most probably die there crushed by its power, with nowhere to hide. But all this and much more I plan to write in part two of this story, later on.

PA080037

crossing damaged bridge in Roseau

If you wish to help us personally or Dominica as a whole – please do so as it really is a disaster on unprecedented scale and every little gesture of help makes the difference. We lost almost everything including most of my pro photography equipment and our newly built tiny dream home. And almost everyone here lost a lot and has a terrifying story to tell.
Thank you!
Derek and Margaret
http://www.ArtPhotographyServices.com
My Paypal account for donations:   photosalon@ozonezonebooks.com  (set only for USD and Canadian Dollars) We bake bread and give out to people in our community. Your donations will help this cause too. Every little help counts! Thank you.

hashtags: #hurricanemaria, #hurricane, #caribbean, #extreme weather, #dominica, #maria, #disasters, #global warming, #atlantic, #derek galon
=========
This story and photographs can be freely distributed and published but has to remain intact, including all credits and info. Modifying this contents will violate copyright law.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: