Hurricane Matthew finally touched down in the south of Haiti early this morning. Reports from other expats and missionaries are coming in, but until all the rain passes I don’t think we’ll have a full picture of what the country is looking at as far as damage and what needs to be done.
The last few days have been long. The anticipation was nauseating. All of the two to three day out predictions had the storm kicking into full gear on Sunday night, and here we are a full two days later finally feeling like we’re on the back end of it.
The waiting for this thing was brutal. Gut wrenching, really. I’ve been here for 11 years. In fact, today is my 11 year Haiti anniversary. In that time I’ve seen some active hurricane seasons, but nothing of this degree. Knowing it was coming, and having no idea how bad or how long it would take to get here and pass through was hard. Knowing that it wasn’t a case of IF there would be damage, but rather how much and where. It was the first hurricane at our new facilities. We had no idea how they would hold up. My kids are older now and much more aware of things going on around them. I had no idea how they would hold up. And, to top it all off, Chris left for the US on Wednesday and won’t be back for another week. So it’s just me and the kids and I was hoping and praying that things wouldn’t be too crazy.
Things in the past two days were ridiculously calm. Eerily calm. Yesterday as I wandered around the yard and stood on our deck looking out over our neighboring fields I couldn’t help but wonder about the birds and other animals. Did they know this thing was coming? Would the leave? I found a tree frog on one of our window panes last night as I was closing up, so I don’t think he got them memo that evacuation might be in his best interest.
Things stayed calm all through the night. This morning at about 5:30 the rain started. All morning it was light, but steady. Around 10 am the wind started to pick up a bit, but would go in bursts. The kids and I were hanging out in our room where they were watching movie after movie to stay occupied, while I kept checking for updates from our expat and missionary group on Facebook. I kept seeing the large work yard roof fluttering in the bursts of wind. This was the biggest question mark with the new property. Would they hold when we had a big storm, or would they just blow off. Out of everything that was the one thing that I felt confident would get damaged.
I didn’t have to wait long to see if I was right. Minutes later I saw it flap up, and then down, like a piece of paper being caught in the wind. I need to tell you, this sucker is made up of 2×4 steel beams embedded in concrete at the top of posts. Chewie, our friend that helped us with so much of the construction last year, and his wife Kendra are staying with us after a year absence while they get their house cleaned up and liveable again. After the roof sagged we decided to run out and move the two work trucks away from the overhang. I was worried that things would rip up and fly, and the last thing we needed was a much needed work truck with a giant section of tin embedded in it’s roof.
About 10 to 15 minutes after we moved the trucks I was on the phone with Chris telling him what had been going on when I heard a giant groaning. I then watched a 60 foot long flap of steel bend down and come to rest against the four posts that hold up the front side of the roof. And that was it. It hasn’t moved since. And, honestly, for that I’m thankful. I had been worried that a gust would get underneath the roof and rip up sheets of steel and send them flying to hit who knows what. The other two smaller roofs held amazingly well, and the damage that we do have is something we can repair. I think we’ll even be able to salvage most of the roofing tin.
Through the afternoon the eye has passed by Haiti and is now heading out toward Cuba. It’s still running at a category 4, which is amazing considering it touched down on land in Haiti. Usually that takes the power out of a storm like this.
There was about an hour of calm, which was a bit eerie again, and then the rain started and it’s settled in. This is the part that scares me for our area of the country. We’ve had places, like Gonaives, that have experienced bad flooding in the past after big storms. We’re anticipating the same this time around, especially if the rain lingers like it has been.
There are so many things that I’m thankful for right now, but my heart is also heavy for what has been lost here. And, it’s going to take days to figure out how bad the damage is through the country and what needs to be done. We know that many will be eager to give to the relief efforts here. After the experience of the earthquake in 2010 we, and many other organizations here on the ground, are asking supporters to be very intentional about where you donate. Please consider supporting smaller, grassroots organizations with long term people on the ground full time, over the big name ones. These smaller organizations already have relationships within communities, and have a better understanding of the culture and how to truly help.
We know that with a storm like this there will be flooding in areas of the Artibonite Valley where most of the communities that we serve with filters are located. There is already a demand for filters, but after something like this that will only increase. Also, when flooding and excessive rain occurs, there are spikes in water-borne disease, so we know that it’s going to be more important than ever to be going in and making the filters available to people who were already in areas heavily impacted by Cholera. In the coming days as we have a chance to assess where we can best focus our attention we’ll share how you can be involved in helping to support the work we’re doing.
Until then, know that we’re safe, that our staff and their families are safe, and that we are so very thankful. Please pray for Haiti in the coming days.