Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tropical Storm Rafael Part 1

Yikes! So I was working on a few blogs but had to quickly change my subject to cover Tropical Storm Rafael. Below is a photo of the current position of the lingering storm.

We arrived on island in St. Kitts at the end of August just in time for Hurricane Isaac, but honestly this tropical storm, even though it has a lot less wind, appears to have brought St. Kitts a lot more rain.

I first heard about Rafael on Friday because we were getting quite a bit of rain, so I checked out, which at that time only showed an unnamed weather front to the southwest of the Leeward Islands. It's name was 98L at that point. Below is the picture that I posted on my facebook page on Friday.
picture courtesy:
 The experience of storms and hurricanes here is a totally new learning event for me. First, the storms take a long time to arrive, which is great because you have plenty of warning, but you look outside and you wonder how in the world a storm is coming when it's bright and sunny outside.
Bright and Sunny typical day in St. Kitts

Secondly, when the storm does arrive the wind picks up and the rain begins to blow sideways. I've experienced sideways rain before but not like this.

Thirdly, the rain comes down like God took buckets and just poured them out right on top of you. Where in the world is all this rain coming from? How can there possibly be this much rain coming down at one time?

I don't have a rain gauge but sometimes you can kind of visually see how much it rained. For example, earlier in the week I planted some green beans in the back yard and this is what they looked like on Saturday morning after the rain started Friday night.
Flooded Bean Patch

The rain started Friday evening around 6 p.m. and picked up Saturday morning and then slowed to almost a complete halt around 2 p.m.

So, I did what every curious human would do. I grabbed my camera, jumped in my car, and headed downtown, where I could see huge waves pounding the bay road.
Bay Road 1 near The Fisheries

Bay Road 2

My first reaction was Holy Cow, and then I thought, "Where are all the emergency vehicles that should be out here checking out the situation and blocking off these flooded streets at?"

Well, good question. Then I proceeded to the main part of downtown to see how much water was coming down the gauts. The gauts are like open drains that instead of running along the curb, like they do in the U.S., they run down a small cut in the middle of the street. Weird, I know. I had heard stories of cars being washed down the gauts and out to sea, but fortunately there were no such cars being washed away.

It looked as though the weather system, which had now been declared Tropical Storm Rafael was over, So I thought. I snapped a few pictures of the gauts and the Kittitians, who either apparently thought the storm was over or just didn't care. I was surprised to see people out at their vegetable stands trying to make a few hard earned, wet Eastern Caribbean dollars.
This is one of gauts that goes under a small arched bridge downtown. I took a photo of this about 30 minutes before this shot was taken. Wow. This photo is now on CNN. photo Courtesy: Charmine Brookes and News

My photo of the same gaut, a half hour earlier

 I was more surprised to see how many people were at the taxi stand and rum shops like nothing was going on, whilst a few feet away the waves were nearly crashing over top of the small sea wall.

As I headed to the grocery store it felt like God picked up and poured out a 55 gallon drum of water right on top of Basseterre. As I drove the car water came down the streets like they were merely riverbeds covered in concrete.

After heading past Subway I saw what I thought was a dog on the side of the road, but nope, a homeless man, whom I've seen before was sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, nearly in the road in the hardest rain I ever experienced.
See the homeless guy on the right side of the pic?

So what should I do I thought? I can't pick this guy up. Where would I take him? I knew he was homeless because I saw him there before but I don't know if there is any type of shelter in St. Kitts for him to go. My heart dropped because regardless of whether he is a drunk or addict or whatever, he shouldn't be out in this weather. I'm going to follow up on this and try to find somewhere he can go.

After getting groceries the rain continued and I headed back home. On my way back I drove down more "river streets" and saw places where water was almost coming over top of pickup truck bumpers.

At one spot on the bay road a large truck had stopped because in front there was a deep channel of water flowing across the road. Small cars were insanely driving through the water and I waited for them to die out, but they made it through and finally I followed the pickup truck through the water and headed home.

Wow, what a trip to the store and talk about some amazing photos and video shots.
A "river street"

Now, it's Sunday and Rafael has been here for two days. I just now saw photos of what the flooding did just minutes after I left the downtown gauts and taxi stand. Absolutely amazing and scary at the same time. I'll admit my adrenaline was pumping on that trip but I had no idea how much worse it got after I left.

So, it goes to show that even though we think of hurricanes as being the worst storms, tropical storms can be just as devastating. When you have storm that moves at a turtle's pace of 7 miles per hour, you get a tremendous amount of rainfall. I have no idea how much rainfall Raphael dropped but I'll certainly find out.

Check out these photos of the aftermath of the storm, So Far, and I say so far because it's still raining and it doesn't look like it's ending anytime soon. The rain will pound for 20 to 30 minutes at a time and then stop and clear up just so you think it's over but then it will start up all over again.
Downtown debris after the flooding on Sunday Courtesy: Keeth France Photography Keeth France's facebook photography page

It's hard to imagine where all this water can go and when you live on an island that is roughly 5 miles wide at it's widest point and with abrupt elevation ranging from sea level to 3,000 feet, you begin to understand how much momentum the water can get by the time it hits the downtown and coast.

This is the main downtown road. The Kittitian people are so resilient. Courtesy: Keeth France Photography

As Julie looked outside she had a different impression of the storm. "Let's get out the yoga mat and use the street as a slip and slide," she said.

Slip and Slide anyone??

I'll be out tomorrow to see how the cleanup goes. Until then stay safe and dry.