Whats Left?

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On Thursday, 9-20-17 we all ventured outside to see the damage. It was still raining and the winds were still blowing. It was actually hot and the air had a strange smell. Later the guy at the marina said the same thing but added it smelled like death. I thought I was the only one that noticed that smell. The neighbors actually had the same problem with the electrical outlets but were not able to go on to the roof during the storm. Their homes were completely flooded. One house ended up with six feet of water inside.

We helped as many people as we could, cleaning gutters, removing debris, mopping up water, cutting power poles, cutting trees and removing power lines/phone lines/internet lines. We also ran electrical lines from a house with a working generator to several homes so they could run their refrigerator. It was a long day. We were able to drive the truck after clearing a path up the hill and see the ocean. The ocean was about 5 miles away and the waves were visible. My best guess is 35-40 foot waves. After several attempts to go further failed we went back to Jerrys house and I passed out at 6:00 pm. I would like to add our hosts (Jerry and family) we’re amazing. They accommodated five extra people in their home during one of the biggest storms to have ever hit Puerto Rico. We will be forever grateful to them.

Finally, Friday 9-22-17- The Storm Has Passed

We woke up with the intention to drive back home to Rincon. Jerry had left early to go to work. It always astonishes me how and why certain things happen. Today was also our grandchildren’s first birthday. They moved to the states with their mother in three months earlier. We never knew it was going to be this difficult to reach out to loved ones. It would have been nice to just facetime or something. I know they are only one-year-old and won’t remember this first birthday but I will. We all are so glad they are not here to experience this.

We then noticed that we had a flat tire on the car and we could not find the keys. Typical, huh? It seems every little task has started to turn into a huge ordeal. Liam and I gave up looking for the keys and decided to go for a walk. We figured someone picked up the keys and moved them or Jerry accidentally took them to work. We had no choice but to wait for Jerry to return. We assumed he would be at work all day so off we went to find a solution to getting home. Keep in mind the dogs and cats have been locked up in the house for five days during a hurricane. We left them with the intention of returning the next day. I can’t even imagine the horror they experienced; abandonment, sadness, hunger, thirst and so on. Plus, we all were ready to be back in our home. This storm left very little standing and we were anxious to see what was left of our world.

Liam and I walked about four miles over trees and downed power lines to get to a friend’s house. Our mistake was not telling anyone where we were going. We made it to their house and of course they were not home. Who would be home after a hurricane? No one, right? We all have that curiosity to explore the debris field. We walked about a mile further away and ended up getting a ride to another friend’s house. We had been gone for over two hours without telling anyone where we were. I can’t fathom the fear my bride was experiencing. I’ll bet if I bring this up I will get the silent treatment for another week.

It turns out Jerry accidentally put the keys in his bedroom. If we would have stayed 15 more minutes we would have been able to drive home 2-3 hours earlier. It worked out as I was able to talk to some other friends about the roads between Mayaguez and Rincon. I also had some fresh brewed coffee and a homemade egg sandwich. Don’t tell Liam or my bride but that was on damn good sandwich. Liam drove back with Jose to pick up Jenn. Since we did not have the car keys Jose volunteered to drive us back to Rincon. So off they went to retrieve my bride. I guess it was about an hour later when they arrived.

To my surprise Jenn pulled up in her car. They had changed the tire. I was so glad. I hate changing tires. I will add she was mad as HELL. So after the butt chew of the century we set out on our way to Rincon. I have to say the drive home was super quiet. We all had no idea what to expect. Was our house going to still be there? Are the dogs alive? Did the big dog eat the little dog? Cats? Cars? Neighbors? Friends? What are we going to see?

The drive home took longer than expected. All the roads were down to one lane. Huge cement power poles all over the roads. Full sized trees lying everywhere. If you can imagine an atomic bomb being dropped and what it looks like afterwards. As we drove towards Rincon we passed endless fields of debris, dead cows, dead horses, mud, cars on roofs of houses, rivers overflowing, homes scattered about, sections of roofs everywhere. It was/is apocalyptic.

The sadness in the car on the way home was deafening.

During that drive home I don’t think five words were spoken. I was thinking she must still be mad? But after 25 years of marriage I know when to ask that question. When we crested the hill driving into Rincon we could see our home perched on the cliff. It was still there, but from the road below, it looked as if half the house had blown away. Jenn immediately burst into tears. It was an impossible drive to the hill top. All roads were blocked by landslides, debris or trees. We tried three different routes and finally made it home. As we got closer the damage became more visible.

Our hearts sunk as we pulled up in front of the house.

The fence in front of the house was broken and knocked over. The paint on our house peeled off. The roof of the upstairs unit and gazebo torn off and left in pieces. We had parts of trees, parts of the neighbors’ house, parts of our house littered throughout the yard and decks. It was inconceivable. We let the dogs and cats out. To my surprise they all were happy to see us. The big dog didn’t eat the little dog or vice a versa. As we walked through the house trudging through 3-4 inches of water we realized how blessed we actually were. The overall, damage was not that bad. We lost a roof, a ceiling fan, some furniture, a few windows/doors, Knick knacks, clothes, tile, some lawn furniture and various other items. We did have a lot of water damage throughout the house and everything upstairs was ruined- the roof had been completely torn off.

Overall, we were pretty darn lucky. We quickly placed the living room door back up with wood braces and covered the broken glass with wood. This is a temporary fix as we had no other options to get this fixed anytime soon. After that Jose decided he needed to get back home and handed me some cash. He said, “Trust me. You will need this. Pay me back later.” Normally I would decline but something told me to accept it. At that time, I did not know that money would be so hard to get.

We then fixed the fence so the dogs could go outside and focused on getting the water out of the house. Our first night back was surreal. We just couldn’t believe what we witnessed. We haven’t addressed the roof yet or any other real repairs. I hope to find a store that is open so I can put a tarp over the hole.

It turns out, things after a hurricane are far worse than during.

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