Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hurricane Omar and Antigua

To start off with Antigua didn't get badly damaged by Hurricane Omar. There were isolated areas that had extreme flooding and although there were not fatalities, there were damaged homes and property in these flooded areas. After securing Xtreme on the boat lift in a way that the boat would not sway in the winds, we secured the Arawak Odyssey on the dock with a huge variety of extra lines and fenders. We also used a huge anchor to make sure the strain wasn't only on the dock lines. The Ocean Nomad had similar lines and fenders holding her to the dock as well. I guess because the center of hurricane Omar passed over 150 miles to our north north west at it's closest we didn't hurricane winds in Antigua or Barbuda. I watched Ocean Nomad below my window in Jolly Harbour and a few of the gusts hitting her starboard side were strong enough against her mast to push her over 40 degrees momentarily. Jolly Harbour is such a great place for boats in storm conditions and we never saw any big chop or waves which was fantastic. The sea level did come up about 14 inches i think above where high tide normally reaches and i had to adjust one of the fenders in the middle of the worst.
I haven't spoken to anyone who has ever experience lightning like we saw during the few hours that Omar's Feeder Bands passed over us. From the look of the radar during the worst part of the storm Antigua and Barbuda seemed to be experiencing the worst of the thunderstorms and rain. Look here at this photo showing rain on the radar moving from south to north as the storm spun past us.

Antigua was right in the middle of the band for most of the night and the lightning was constant for about 3 hours. In the image above Antigua is covered by very heavy rain in the top row of boxes right in the middle column. That image was taken at 9:25 GMT or at 4:25 local time. This one was 20 minutes later:

And the image below was taken shortly afterwards showing hurricane Omar having already passed from the Caribbean Sea into the Atlantic with its center over 150 miles from Antigua, but the feeder band covering us. Imagine constant flashing with sometimes 4 or 5 flashes in a second non stop! It was sooo strange and anyone you speak to will talk about that part of Omar as being most unusual. I can still see the flashing. Wow!!! If you saw it in a movie you would say that it was total BS, but let me tell you it was real. In the middle of the worst of it I got a call from my brother telling me that his girlfriend was about to give birth to their first child. What timing!
Anyway, we drove my big truck from the North Finger of Jolly Harbour to the South before dawn after the main winds and rain had started to chill out a bit and all seemed ok. We came home in time for a second big rain and set of squalls. Just after 6:30, i went back over to check on the Adventure Antigua powerboats. The waters were starting to flow into the area from all the hills nearby and at the fuel dock area the waters were rushing incredibly hard. Only 4x4 vehicles could pass at that point and I carefully pushed the ford thru after taking some of the video you will have seen on the blog before this one.

My boats were ok so it was time to come back home. My girlfriend called me saying the waters were rising from the drainage canal and was now covering the road outside. The fuel dock area was worse and Greg from the Barbuda Ferry was at his boat asking me for help. I saw Glen from Creole Cruises who had jogged from Johnsons Point miles and miles away to come and see if his boat was ok. We both helped Greg move his ferry out of the way from all that rushing water. I called John Cox who owns the power catamaran right next to the ferry to tell him that he needed to get down here ASAP. His boat was right in the flow or water and all it would take was a boulder or big tree branch in that torrent to sink his boat. We couldn't get close to it. He was so very lucky that the boat made it thru without harm. I don't know how. My old windsurfing buddy Normandy built the boat and passed away just before it was launched. I think he was looking over it on that morning.

Anyway, i had to get back home and made my way towards the North Finger which was now having very bad flooding at the 330 block of villas just on the Northern edge of the gold course. I couldn't pass at all. This photo taken by JC Dornellas show me in my truck after the waters had dropped about 6 inches. I still couldn't pass.

I decided to go back and get my boat since the winds had died down and use that to get home with Brian Dornellas and his son who were in the same position as i was. Both his wife and my girlfriend were on the North side cut off from the rest of us. We got to the boat lift and found out that the power had been cut off. With nowhere to go we were invited in by Dr. Sengupta and his family for b'fast. Wow, we were cold and wet and the warm hospitality was great. Thanks!

Finally at about 9 am we got word that the waters were dropping and that it may be possible for us to get through. We also heard that several of the Caribbean Helicopters had been washed into the North finger canal by the floods. This image taken by JC again shows an area just downstream from the helicopters where the drainage canal overflowed and erroded the land next to Harbour Island Bridge:Nobody expected the kind of rain we got in such a short time and despite being tied down properly for tropical storm conditions the helicopters were easily washed away when the huge torrent of flash flood water came through. Their other helicopters were better off and should be up and running within a few weeks i hear.

The isolated but bad flooding within Jolly Harbour as seen in this image wasn't the only place on the island where flooding took place. From the Antigua Sun paper: "The worst affected areas, according to Mullin, were the villages of Piggotts, Gray’s Farm and Bolans. NODS had to rescue some 34 people from their homes in Piggotts and a “significant number” from Bolans – in these areas, some by boat, and others had to flee to shelters."

According to the MET office report we had 6 inches of rain in about 6 hours which was the main reason for the flash flooding in traditional drainage areas.

I knew that there were no fatalities, but had heard that there was looting in St. Johns but reports say this was isolated to one store. Again a reort from the Antigua Sun.

After my girlfriend and I were able to get out of Jolly Harbour we drove down to the Adelin Clinic to see how my brother and his girlfriend were. She had been in labour since the middle of the storm and hadn't given birth yet. My sister Nell told me that they were going to have to do a C-section so I made a stop at the Epicurean at Woods first for snacks and drinks. Most of my family had been there since 5 am and it was now mid day. I got there just in time to meet Alexander Fuller Jr. who was the most recent hurricane baby in the Caribbean at just over 8lbs!

Considering what we had all been through that morning I think this boy was a very lucky child. We all were pretty lucky in Antigua that morning and with a full boat booked the next morning for an Xtreme Circumnav there was still more work to be done before sun down.

Antigua and Barbuda sustained very little damage from Hurricane Omar mainly because the main core of the storm missed the islands. It was a very strong feeder band full of powerful thunderstorms that did damage by pumping 6 inches of rain onto the island in under 6 hours. Thankfully the flooding was isolated to just a few unfortunate sites. Today is sunny once again and we are all finally drying out properly.

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