Hurricane Maria Hits PR, an eyewitness account:
Sunday 10/22 Updated: photos added… Here is the story I’ve been trying to write for so long.
Jawbreaker 1:06 is when we got our butts really kicked. It looks like a left upper cut to the mouth. I find this video fascinating because we had lost power early in the event. We had no idea where the eye was or what was happening. I was judging the position of the storm by the wind direction.
This eyewitness account is from the hills above Rincon in NW Puerto Rico: Maria hit us really hard. She came early and stayed late. We knew for days it would be bad. 7 days before landfall in PR I saw this massive group of clouds in the middle Atlantic, menacing, huge, well formed, not even designated a ‘potential tropical cyclone’ by the NHC. She formed and then went thru a period of rapid intensification. The storm itself felt like a beat down, 13 rounds in the ring, almost a KO for PR. It was a beating of epic proportions I have never in my life felt wind that strong or intense, not even close.
PR is such a beautiful island with amazing people but we are not perfect. After Irma’s PR miss, many did not take Maria seriously. Now PR is a case study for natural disasters. Tuesday September 19th, 2017 we finished final preparation and hunkered down Tuesday evening as the winds got up past 40mph. Tuesday night was all down hill as the wind started howling, the rain falling sideways. Wednesday we awoke to 80knt North winds 1st thing as Maria came ashore in SE PR, Yabucoa at dawn as a Cat 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. So it was blowing 80mph in Rincon and then it got worse. At 8am I was looking out a crack in the window when a squall with a gust close to 90 pushed over a 40 year old mango tree 20ft outside my window, it fell with a crunch. The beating was on. Down came my beloved coconut palms that bore so much fruit, then the avocado trees fell over, the lemon tree blew away (I never did find it) and water started to trickle into the house. The boards were shaking the wind was howling and we went in the bathroom to sing psalms and pray. We had started bailing water but stopped when the door was shaking violently and we then escaped to the bathroom. After praying in the bathroom with my wife and 3 daughters I walked out into the hall to see water coming into the house like a river. Now, it was useless to try and stop it. It flowed across the kitchen and exited the SW door, ok no big deal. Then as the storm moved NW the wind switched to the SW and blew the water back into the house. There was no winning. This part of the storm was even stronger than the N side. It was now solid 120mph winds and any trees that hadn’t fallen from the north were now falling from the south and the west. The boards were shaking, the rain was pelting. We felt as if any second the next gust would hit and take out the window. We were fighting the storm from the inside of our house. We were walking around in inches of water on the kitchen floor.
These are frame grabs:
Wednesday night passed slow. We were not sleeping too much, then finally dozing a bit at 3am. Maria was passing NW, after 30 hours- moving away from us now, thank God. I woke up at dawn at 6am and opened the door, south winds still blew at 30-40 plus, the sky was gun metal grey. The landscape looked like an atomic bomb had gone off. I started to cry but I could not. I felt sick, I was nauseous, I felt as if I would vomit. Later some friends came over and we left in the 4X4’s to check on the members of our congregation, we had chain saws and we had to cut our way to the houses. Thankfully everyone was ok. The municipal crews of Rincon were out already clearing the main roads but many were impassible and needed heavy machinery to clear. All communication was down, no electricity, no water, nothing. A week after the storm we were finally able to use a satellite phone and call our relatives in the states to tell them we were alive. Thanks to a nice man named Steve who lives at Dogmans. That was huge. A month has passed now and there is still no water and no electricity in Rincon. Limited cel phone service just came back. Many people have left Puerto Rico for the states. There are some positives and a lot of negatives. We continue to struggle in every way. At least the planet and the ocean are repairing themselves. In time we will repair ourselves also. Many have stated they never want to go thru anything like that ever again…
Lo Bueno, the positives:
All Proceeds go to Families in need in Puerto Rico: .
Below are blog posts from before Maria up until now 10/22/2017:
1 month since Maria hit PR. The old almond tree on the cliff above the peak at Indy is flushing out leaves finally, chest high barrels yesterday 🙂 Thanks again to all who donated since the catastrophe happened 9/20. You’ve made a huge difference, your awesome and kind and generous and it will come back to you. I am going out to do relief work this weekend so I will be spreading that around. Thanks again…
Tuesday 10/17/2017- 7pm Rincon PR: The struggle continues in Puerto Rico. I got a donation from a aura reader and it had this note: “Please help a family with this donation!” So I was at the store today and there was a mom with like 5 kids in tow and I was able to help her. Also the Emergency Management volunteers and more families so thanks so much. Everyone here knows I am an ‘Americano’ so for me to be able to help with your contribution it might as well be you yourself standing there helping the mother of 5 and she said with a heavy Spanish accent “thank you”… The fact that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US, a US territory and that-that is a benefit has really been brought to the forefront here in the last month. I am politically neutral and I speak in generalities, not to stereotype anyone but it’s been a good union during this natural disaster the US and PR. The people here love the help… It helps in a practical way and it lifts their spirits and no matter what the people in power say to offend the masses here on this American island, all the people here are happy to have the help. You will not hear any anti-US rhetoric here. The US military presence here in NW PR has tripled in the last 2 weeks. There is a lot of support on the ground. The challenge is to restore a sense of normalcy. Electricity, running water, clean drinking water. On the way back from San Juan I saw tons of Petroleum Trucks with stateside tags from GA and AL and elsewhere. I just want to say to the USA thanks so much for the aid, it really helps… The cel companies I would like to take out back. How hard its it to fix a tower 1 month after the damage? AT&T, T-mobile, Verizon(claro) all are having a hard time getting it together and thus the reason for infrequent updates on this site. I would have updated this am but there was no network anywhere so that’s the latest…
WFL WX Mid Week: That breeze feels good, cooler temps. But this October is inverted with no fronts getting even a sniff of the SE. I will never forget the winter of 2000 when we couldn’t buy a front. It was 85 in December… (Then January got cold) Let’s hope it’s not like that this year but there are no front door fronts in sight and thus not much surf to forecast.
Weekend 10/14/2017: Down here in PR it’s flat at the moment. The struggle continues with not much progress locally. I heard a few places in Aguada and Aguadilla close to Carr #2 have gotten electricity. Here in Rincon it’s a mess, the infrastructure. On FB people were asking when the power would be back in Puntas. Someone said 2 weeks. We could not help but laugh. You know where Rincon Hostel was and Cafe 2 Go? That substation there was damaged severely. Big cables and poles and coils exploded in the street. On top of that there is no water for about 60% of Rincon. We got a boil water alert. A friend from NY hooked us up with a waves for water filter(thank you so much!). I have to find a clean dispenser and hook it up today. Crazy how many people here do no have adequate drinking water. We so much appreciate the government relief and we are not complaining but the distribution of clean drinking water seems a bit slow and disorganized while people get sick. If I can get this filter going today I will start filtering the local ‘potable water’ and it should be quite drinkable to bottle and pass out.
Thurs 7am 10/12 Report: Nothing new on the wave front. For WFL: Looks like you could get some of the 1st cooler WX in about 10 days from now from what I saw. Kind of a series of back door fronts stepping down the day time temps towards the back half of October. This may be the 1st October in awhile w/o a solid cold front. The last couple years saw surf producing big cool downs in October. This October looks different. Down here in PR we had 3ft @ 9 seconds NE swell yesterday with south winds. It was really pretty but weak, eye candy. Nobody was getting stellar rides too much. Gas lines are down, that’s what I got to do today get gas for the guy who has a generator driven well in Puntas, he is providing water for some of the neighbors. Things are not getting better too quick. I here the Metro is in Lepto crisis and more people are dieing now from medical problems (dialysis and oxygen needed) than from the actual hurricane itself. If you want more info some of the best links I have seen are on Facebook Rincon page. My family leaves next week but I am staying. Kind of glad to get my little girls out of here for a bit with all the health issues. You do not want to get sick here now. Even when I surf I am careful not to get injured. Not even any ice since before Maria. If I had one wish, it would be for a bag of ice. Get a bag of ice today and enjoy it for me. Still it could be so much worse and I should not complain…
Wed 6am 10/11 DP Report for wfl and pr: Hopefully this morning’s report is the beginning of consistent updates on this website. I will post a complete story on the Maria experience next week… Checking the maps this am nothing is showing on the board for wfl waves in the near future. At least everyone got really fun surf from Nate. EC will have some waves with onshore winds, check their forecast. Here in PR at the aura office it’s 73 this am with a stiff south breeze. We still have no water and no electricity, we are running the generator 3 hrs in the morning and 3 hours at night, still over $200 in gas for the generator every month which is a lot for very little here. At least we have tons of rain water to flush the toilets. They say it could be 2018 before we get electric back here in Rincon. A waist high wave is expected today here in PR. 20 days after Maria devastated this island the trees are pushing out new leaves and the scenery is getting more bright green. Thank God for this awesome planet. Off to try and clean a clients house with no running water, this should be fun. Have a great day.
Tuesday 6pm 10/10/2017: Sunday seemed like rock bottom for us; no electricity, no water, shelves in the store empty and then… the generator broke down. But things are getting slightly better now. I may even have some slow internet to update this site more often. Saturday was a good day. We made it to San Sebastian to deliver relief. We shared encouragement and assessed the situation, then Ricky got up on the roof and with the help of 3 guys bent the zinc roof that had doubled over back into place. Many non-concrete roofs here have cables to hold them down. On this particular roof the cables had become detached during the fury of the 120mph winds, the roof bent back over itself like a a lid on a can of tuna and the contents under the roof inside the little 9yr old girls room exploded. After we put it back, we cabled it down better and then tarped over that so that the house has been stabilized for the time being. Super cool to get that done… Many people are effected economically, 50% unemployment now does not sound exaggerated. A father of 3 who has a pest control business was down to his last $15 and with little food was getting a bit anxious and we were able to help them out. Many more have been helped by your donations, thanks so much. It’s so cool to be able to help. If the internet gets better I will post pics and give you guys a forecast but the connection is so slow right now I cant even browse the web. (Update The internet has gotten slightly better). WFL Wow, the Nate waves looked really fun, stoked for you guys. In the forecast there is nothing headed for the gulf at the moment post Nate. East flow, check the EC forecast.
Check this: October is usually the hottest month in the Caribbean as hot air from the states moves in and the Bermuda high becomes the Bermuda low (no wind)but this October has been very cool in PR. This is my theory: Irma and Maria sucked all the heat out of the atmosphere, rolled over the ocean so that upwelling has cooled the deep ATL a couple degrees and it has been really good WX 87 as a high (if that) rain and a chilly 72 at night, 3 inches of rain in Rincon today! Everything is sprouting again and the earth is repairing itself…
FRI 9pm UPdater: you guys should get some building waves on Saturday from Nate. Early bird may get the worm, worth chancing it, check what buoys there are and go for it or wait for later when your sure it’s up… sorry I cant be more help but Im stoked your getting waves and no destruction… there will be a clean wave when it first comes up and then it will get choppy later on looks like. Thanks so much guys for the donations. They are helping those in need. I’m able to do a bit of good down here and it really helps. We made it up to deliver gas to the couple that needed resp therapy. Get this they are 90 yrs old and they have been married 72 years! No lie, cutest couple I will get a pic when I can but they really appreciated the help. I have been able to put gas in the tanks of many workers that are fanning out to help those in need so it’s working and you guys are very much a part of it, thanks so much! Tomorrow we are headed to san Sebastian near the waterfall to help a family in need. It used to take 1 hr to get to the waterfall now it is 2.5hr drive, 111 is cut off and you have to detour. Everyday is a struggle to help others. Just flushing the toilet is a big job. We hear rumors san Sebastian is suffering bad and lawless. Many robbers taking advantage in the mountains where police do not have a strong presence. We had a mtg yesterday and we are expecting a possible cholera outbreak. Cleanliness is paramount. FEMA is here helping. I have a really nice lady who works next door she gets internet when her generator is on so I am able to post this. We got shot down trying to go help today so we all went to Pools and caught great waves, the whole family, JG and his crew, WJ. so much current we drifted to Spanish wall and it was going off, epic sesh… pic below.
Monday 10/2/2017 7pm: We have been getting your relief packages! Thanks to the USA and to JW relief. All the neighbors in Playa Anyasco got a relief bag that said ‘take heart, take nutrition’ something to that effect. It had an American flag and it was from St Petersburg, FL GA Foods! Everyone was so stoked! the mayor of anyasco was going around handing them out to all the residents. Playa anyasco got hit bad, 6ft storm surge. So after my last post Friday I went Saturday with another brother to visit the relief center in Mayaguez. We got bags of relief made up of rice, beans, box milk, TP, etc and headed up into the mountains behind Mayaguez. We found families that were in major need and so grateful for the relief packages. It was the best feeling being able to help out. What I learned is that my little corner of Rincon is a paradise compared to the poor sections of Mayaguez. Mani and Playa got it 5 times worse than us; roads washed out, houses destroyed, dead animals in the streets 10 days after the storm, so sad. Thanks to everyone who contributed to aurasurf.com. These funds will go to those in need! People need the basics right now but relief is flowing in and it feels good to be a part of it. Thanks! My flight to the states was canceled so I am staying here in Rincon, PR for the indefinite future to work and help out. Tomorrow we head back to the mountains of Mayaguez to deliver gas to a family that needs it for respiratory therapy.
Pete is a brother in my hall. He lives in Playa Anyasco. He spent the night of the hurricane in his dingy inside his bedroom floating! The storm surge came in his house. Playa looks like a war zone now. Everything piled in the streets. Some people are not doing too good resorting to drugs and booze to ease the pain… Many people have asked to help the best way it to donate to the paypal on the right or your favorite charity that is involved in Puerto Rico and elsewhere(many places have experienced disaster). The relief is getting here and it helps so much it raises everyone’s spirits and helps in a practical way.
Friday 9/29 7pm: Surfacing… a friend a mile away somehow has internet when the generator is on so here it is: Thanks to everyone who left messages. We are ok. Maria hit us very hard, 36hrs of beatings. Rincon is severely damaged I dont want to hype it. I’ve heard the rest of the island is worse I heard the eye went into a replacement cycle near us, makes sense if that is true, the beat down was unreal! like a nuclear war w/o the radiation. Despite how bad it is there are so many positives we take from this: The kids are happy, outside playing, riding bikes. We are getting to know our neighbors, everyone is sharing what little we have and helping one another, people are outside walking and talking. The WX is good, the star-gazing unreal. I’ve surfed twice and there are no crowds anywhere. The ocean has healed already. I’ve heard of crime and violence but so far it is isolated here. I have a plane ticket to leave next week but I feel guilty leaving. The flight may get cancelled. People are going thru phases of dealing with a very traumatic experience like anger depression fear anxiety resolve. We are praying and worshiping a lot. All the friends are good, one lost his roof, one was flooded but we have big teams to help and clean up. I will try and post more later. so far there is no gas, little water, not too much food(eating cocos and plantains, not much communication. It’s like we stepped in a time machine and went back to 1950 Puerto Rico.
Tuesday 9/19/2017 5:50 pm Rincon, Puerto Rico: they are cutting power at 6pm tonight to save transformers. We r as ready as we can be. 5pm NHC advisory is bad. Maria is going to dissect PR. SE to NW now to exit Camuy Cat5 and on the slow grind. I will try and post an update as long as the cel towers stay up. We’ve had our first squalls, lots of rain and a thick heavy wind. It’s not supposed to be over till Thursday late and the tail is bad, it’s all bad, time to hunker down.
Tuesday DP: Just a quick update. It is very still here this am. No breeze, overcast. Dominica was devastated last night. The official NHC takes Maria over SJU now but the GFS has her crossing towards Isabela. St Croix is under the gun. I worked 14hrs yesterday helping friends and neighbors board up and get ready and boarding up here. I apologize if you have tried to jump in on the discussion and have not been able to. something is wrong with the comments portion of this site. Some get in, some don’t, sorry…Thanks to everyone who donated. I will fwd a portion of the proceeds to help disaster victims and use the rest to get thru this storm. We could be w/o power for a loooong time. I’m not too worried about myself. I really feel for the people in the islands that have not even begun to recover and now they will pass Marias in who knows what kind of shelter. We are very boarded up, more than Irma.
Monday Tropical Take: Many have asked me if Maria will hit Florida. I don’t think so, the problem with Maria(for PR) is she is following the track of Jose. That’s why she will cross PR but not hit Florida… I made it to Home Depot in Mayaguez early Sunday and got some panels. We will start boarding soon. What has changed since yesterday? Maria is forecast to enter PR near Maunabo Pt Tuna (where they all do) and exit Aguadilla. The eye is supposed to pass 15 miles from my house. If it’s a 15 mile eye wall we are going to get it. Maria is forecast to enter as a cat4 (!) and exit as a Cat3. PR has a lot of 3000ft mountains to slow her down. I love PR and the people here but many are not taking this seriously. Everyone was partying very hard yesterday. I don’t get it… The friends in my congregation are taking it very seriously. We had a mtg with 15 brothers yesterday and everyone knows the plan and everyone is on the same page. We have researched and studied information on preparedness for disasters. Hopefully we are prepared as well as possible. I see the images of Tortola and I know that could be Rincon and the rest of PR. Thanks to everyone who donated and thanks to all the friends who text and call to wish us well. If I don’t hit you back were most likely not dead. We r prepared. In the islands after Irma we did not hear from friends for days b/c communication is down. When the military came in they could use satellite phones to tell loved ones they are ok or internet to post on social media so I may not text you back. This may or may not be my last post.
Sunday Tropical Take: This one Maria has got PR’s name all over her. So it’s pretty much a done deal right? We are going to get destroyed. I can’t imagine 125 mile per hour winds at my house. It will take months to recover if it goes down like that. We are still stocked and my wife just happened to be at the super market when the 5pm advisory came out yesterday so we have topped off our provisions. The 5pm advisory is when the siren’s went off in my head. We have enough food and water for 7-10 days. My patio is awesome also. I have tons of plantains, bananas, avocados and calabasa(Caribbean Pumpkin) that we enjoy eating. The biggest thing I woke up freaking about this am is the windows, I need more panels. I covered 50% when Irma passed to the north, mostly all the N facing windows now I need to cover the south windows and if we get 125 mile per hour winds I need to cover more of them. So I’ve got 72 hrs to find some panels recycled or new from home depot or a local ferreteria(hardware store). We will move downstairs again, safe space for my wife and 3 kids. Generator has 10 gallons of gas, I need a bit more. I’m not hoarding just need to be set for a week to 10 days.
Growing up in Seminole, people said the spirit of the indian’s of Indian Rocks Beach protected Pinellas County from hurricanes. Indeed, 1 never hit in all my life (Elena got close). Here people think PR is protected also. People were a little too self righteous and proud in the face of Irma like that’s why the islands got it and not us or New Orleans(Katrina) or Houston. The whole time my neighbor was saying ‘4,000,000 prayers steered Irma away’ I was like “Please be quiet, dont say that” Instant Karma. One of the coolest things living here for the last 7 years has been to meet so many awesome people from the islands. I have so many friends now in St John, Tortola, St Thomas and more and so this breaks my heart all the more and my friends in the islands are really, really, good people, devout, spiritual people, deeply faithful. They did not get destroyed by a hurricane for anything else than the current WX pattern mixed with very warm, deep ocean heat content that took Irma from Cat 3 to Cat 5(climate debate). It was random destruction and the song in my head is one by Social Distortion. “I’ve got friends who are in prison and friends who are dead”… Sing it with me: “Don’t you know it could’ve been me” and now it seems it is… Off to do more preparation.