Predictions for each new hurricane season brings with it memories of past events for survivors, but also the assurance that hard learned lessons will serve as a buffer for future disasters.
Occasionally, during the long storm there were tremendous ripping sounds, similar to the sound a gigantic zipper might make when it’s being quickly unzipped. Those were actually the sounds of multiple roofs being ripped away from their anchors … the houses.
Most frightening though, were the sounds that would start off in the distance like a racing train. It was a sound that got increasingly closer and increasingly louder until it is a deafening, unbearable roar. Those were the sounds of tornados in the storm.
The Eye of Hurricane Marilyn
After the storm, the island of St. Thomas bore no resemblance to its former self. Approximately 90 percent of the houses and structures on the island were damaged or totally destroyed.
In two of the photographs below, clearly there are quite a few structures visible in the first that are missing in the second. Many sturdy homes were completely torn from their foundations to be found in the vicinity days later totally crumpled while others – with all their contents were never seen again.
Before the Storm
After the Storm with Most of Roof Missing
Hilltop View of a Portion of Charlotte Amalie Before the Storm
After the Storm
The Aftermath of the Storm
- A naval vessel sat in the middle of Main Street in the town of Charlotte Amalie
- The storm surge left water lines in buildings in town as high as the fifth floor
- Dumpsters weighing thousands of pounds, as well as cars and trucks were found in incongruous places having been flung through the air like toys
- Almost every home that was still standing was missing its roof causing the squalls that followed the hurricane to add to the flooding of houses and buildings
- Electrical lines were strewn everywhere like tangled spaghetti making streets impassable
- Concrete foundations were often the only thing that remained of once palatial homes.
- A landscape that was thick with foliage, trees and flowers was bare
One of many areas destroyed
- The National Guard was able to fly onto the island a little less than 48 hours after the hurricane passed with medical staff, medical supplies, food and water
- FEMA quickly set up a workable hospital in large tents
- Hundreds of traumatized tourists who had not heeded the suggestion to leave the island before the hurricane was flown off island by the U.S. military
- All hotels were heavily damaged and closed to the public for months
- There was no electricity on the island for several months
- Telephone service wasn’t restored to some areas of the island for one year
- Tourism, the island’s main industry was non-existent for months
- For many nights after the storm the only sounds on the pitch black island were the military helicopters flying all night with search lights to discourage looting
The announcement of the beginning of hurricane season means different things to different people, but for most survivors it almost always bring a surge of memory followed by a brief stab of fear. Of course, if there is one lesson learned in such disasters, and one source of comfort it is that the best defense is strong faith and good preparation.