Hurricane Ike slowly gathered strength over the Atlantic while everybody braced for a repeat of the latest episode of America’s skydiving adventure.
Turks and Caicos, had been until now, spared from hurricanes.
The best thing about the islands has always been the wind. It blows at you from the fast expanse of sea. It diffuses the light on the beach with dust and salt. It smells of all the scented flowers of the Caribbean. It wakes you up and empties your head. I climbed over the dunes and battled my way back to the house. Suddenly the storm took hold and knocked me off my feet. I grabbed hold of some railings like the nannies from Mary Poppins and made it back to the house.
The windows bent inwards and a weird pressure built up that made your ears pop. It is at moments like this that all the windows in a room can dramatically shatter. The builder had promised that ours were hurricane resistant; for once, he was right. Ike moaned, shrieked, and hammered at them but they stood their ground. The lights flickered and cut out. After a few minutes, the phone went dead. Now I was all alone. Soon after Ike reached his peak with a thunderous medley of micro-tornados, at which point the roof of the house lifted off and bounced toward the ocean with the furniture in hot pursuit leaving a skeleton of a place. There was nothing to do but wait. As I sat on the basement floor under the disintegrating house I felt completely detached.
Finally, the storm was over. All was silent.
No wind. No birds. No house. No boat. No voices, and the sea was calm and I was whole and standing. Breathtakingly lucky, once again.
The Cay was trashed. The sight reminded me of pictures I have seen of Germany after WWII. Destruction was everywhere. When night fell, darkness spread like a blanket all over the area.
Rescue crews arrived to shuttle everybody to Providenciales. There, for the first time, I saw Branko waiting at the airport, looking worried.
“You want to assess damages?” the authorities ask. No assessment needed. This will not be the place I retire to after all.
“Never make plans far ahead”, Branko advised. “And the best retirement place in the world,” he continued, “is an airplane. You can just pack-up and take-off when trouble comes your way.”
Not bad advice, unless you get airsick when you are three feet of the ground.
So, after the first week of September 2008, I had to part with an old friend, the idea of a retirement place and a much-loved boat. I knew it was time to cut my losses and leave.
On September 7th., 2008 Ike arrived as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 145 mph and swept over the Turks and Caicos Islands. Ike was the third most destructive hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States. It was the ninth named storm, fifth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. Ike was blamed for at least 195 deaths and $500 million in the Turks and Caicos, amounting to a total of $32 billion in damages. Ike was the third costliest Atlantic hurricane of all time, behind Hurricane Andrew of 1992 and Hurricane Katrina of 2005. With Ike, the eye of the storm passed directly over the islands.
Remembering the terrible seventh.