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Caribbean: Hurricane Gustav

Categories: Caribbean, Latin America, North America, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, U.S.A., Disaster, Environment

Hurricane Gustav approaching Kingston – Photo courtesy Wayne Sutherland, used with permission. Visit Wayne's photostream [1].
It's that time again – hurricane season [2] – and while 2008 has produced a motley crew of storms [3] in three short months, Gustav [4] is the one that stands out. At least so far. The storm, which was initially formed to the south-east of Port-au-Prince [5], was categorized as a hurricane on August 26. The system quickly moved across several Caribbean [6] territories, hitting Haiti [7], the Dominican Republic [8], Jamaica [9], the Cayman Islands [10] and Cuba [11], before heading towards the United States [12].

Bloggers were bracing themselves for anything. Mighty Afroditee [13] was busy with preparations for the approaching storm, especially after the Caymans’ experience with Hurricane Ivan [14] four years ago:

As we sit with abated breath, enjoying the last remnants of the electricity, water, and basic amenities, praying for the best, but prepared for the worst…Gussin’ Gus makes his way forward, anxiety and uncertainty preceding his unwanted visit, and all I can say is…well shit! I am flicking fed up of this hurricane business.

From Grenada [15], Blah Bloh Blog [16]‘s thoughts went out to her fellow bloggers:

Prayers and thoughts are with Stunner [17] and Mad Bull [18] as T.S. Gustav is currently over JA and heading slowly to the Caymans. Keep safe and let us know you are OK. It’s amazing to realise that Gustav is the thunderstorm that passed over Grenada last Saturday.

Every island in the storm's path was preparing for the worst, but Haiti seems to have got hit hard. Pwoje Espwa [19] kept readers up-to-date with daily posts:

Rivers are overflowing as the denuded mountains cannot absorb the rain. We are hearing of many more people going to the hospital with sick babies, that many have lost crops, than there will be fewer children going to school this academic year. Haiti did not need this at this time. Food and fuel prices have gone through the roof giving cause to the political manifestations which can so easily turn violent.

A day later, the news was not much better [20]. Pwoje Espwa‘s photos [21] highlighted the level of damage Gustav wreaked:

Just had another mini-storm with wild wind and rushing rain. Many homes have been lost; tons and tons of agricultural products have been flooded; over 60 Haitians have died in these past few days. Haiti is old news now as folks focus on Jamaica and beyond.

Jamaica's new government, in the meantime, was busy reassuring citizens that the country's emergency services were well prepared for the storm – YardFlex.com [22] noted that the Prime Minister was “guardedly optimistic that the storm will not cause the island to suffer much damage”.

This was, unfortunately, not to be [23]. Reports of flooding, damage and loss of life started coming in from bloggers all over Jamaica. Abeng News Magazine [24] said that as many as nine deaths were unconfirmed; A Fe Me Page Dis Iyah [25] thought the storm flew in with a fury, Francis Wade [26] admitted that Gustav gave Jamaica “a good and proper ‘mash up'” and Annie Paul [27] was fooled into thinking that he was “a gentle soul”:

He's been here a few hours now. i don't mind him…compared to Emily and Dennis. Or Ivan. Ivan was terrible.

It was not long before she realised her error in judgment [28]:

Gentle soul? couldn't have been more wrong. Gustav was a killer, insidiously creeping across the country, causing rivers to burst their banks and washing away homes and lives. Not much to choose between Ivan and him.

Hello World [29] also confessed to being “tricked by tropical storm Gustav”, while Stunner's Afflictions [30] echoed his sentiment:

What seemed to have been a walk in the park with Gustav going north of Jamaica and only delivering some rain to the island has certainly changed!

Stunner also took time to post video [31] of the storm's effects on Kingston, the capital city, while A Fe Me Page Dis Iyah [32] was hoping the floods would wash away all of the country's criminals.

Then there was the aftermath [33], which Annie Paul [34] describes quite poetically:

There is something so newborn and fresh in the air after a hurricane leaves—don’t tell me Gustav wasn’t a hurricane when he visited here; it’s like insisting someone is 19 when they’re turning 20 tomorrow. The atmosphere seems to have been cleansed, purged of all the humid, hot and evil vapours that have been oppressing us for months now. A zephyr-like breeze whispers idle threats and the sun sparkles as it shines on the moist landscape. The riddim track to Marley’s Natural Mystic is blowing through the air.

Blowing through the air, perhaps, in much the same way that Gustav continued along his path to the Cayman Islands and Cuba. In the Cayman, Mighty Afroditee [35] was suffering from cabin fever and Mad Bull [36] was rejoicing over the fact that he still had “light, water, TV and the internet!”

Cuba did not fare so well. Black Sheep of Exile [37] got news that “the devastation in the Isle of Pines is just beyond words”, while Havana-based blogger Yoani Sanchez [38], who wanted to post updates about the arrest [39] and subsequent release [40] of Cuban punk rocker Gorki, was practically imprisoned by the storm:

Because of Gustav the weather situation in Havana doesn’t allow me to leave the house to connect to the internet in a public place. On my balcony, fourteen floors up, we already have strong winds, and have started to close the windows and protect the plants. Today I am called on to face another cyclone.

Today, Hurricane Gustav [41] began to rage over Louisiana [42] and Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella [43]‘s heart went out to the city of New Orleans:

This weekend marks a horrific anniversary for the cradle of jazz, and three years later almost to the day, there’s a carefully planned city wide evacuation in the face of the category-four Hurricane Gustav. I can just imagine the fear and panic and emotion swirling in the hearts of Nawlins natives today, for whom the devastation of Katrina is a recent nightmare. I just wanted to offer support to everyone in New Orleans and up the coast all the way to Alabama. Be smart, stay safe, and our prayers are with you.