Last time we were in this part of India (2008) we experienced a cyclone. there were terrific winds and rain over about 3 days with no power. so when we heard that another cyclone was heading our way, we thought we knew what to expect and how to prepare for it, but the ferocity of this one caught everyone off guard. although it was shorter in duration it was significantly more destructive.
we had an early dinner on thursday eve (Dec 29) as the wind was starting to pick up and there was some rain. we read in our room for a couple of hours, listening to the increasing intensity of the wind and Joseph fell asleep around 9 pm. the noise of the wind kept me awake and it wasn’t hard to notice that it was getting stronger and stronger.
(( our room setup: our room is on the 3rd floor of the guest house with a balcony facing the sea. there is a meditation garden in front of us – between the sea and our building. the garden is full of coconut trees, potted plants, statues of various Hindu gods and goddesses, benches and hundreds of different tropical trees and shrubs. it is very peaceful and well cared for. there is a door from the balcony into our room which consists of two single beds, a ‘coffee’ table, and chair. the door to the outdoor hallway is lined up with the door to the balcony. this door is on the back of the building and comes off a hallway that runs the length of the building. we have a bathroom inside our bedroom and it is quite large, no window and at the front door.))
I thought I had better close the windows which are always open and allow the warm air from the sea to circulate in our room. The whole view of the sea was white. Huge rolling waves, crashing into each other. just all white water. The wind was so strong that it lifted alot of water into the air and blew that around – so even the sky and air between our room and the sea (not very far) was white and wet. the wind starting to scream through the window openings. I closed the 3 sliding panes, although there is still space between them as they are each in their own track. the noise level continued to rise and at last Joseph woke up and we did an assessment as it was clear to us that the winds were much more intense than our previous experience. we knew the building itself was very strong and secure. the only weak point was the windows – if the wind blew them out we would be soaked and would basically be like being outside – no protection from the storm.
so we took the mattress from one of the beds and put it into the bathroom in case we needed to retreat to a safer place. we filled 2 buckets of water in case we lost water. we turned the empty bedframe (solid wood) and put it between our one remaining bed and the windows. we stuffed 2 towels under the balcony door to deter the rain (as there is no sill) and held them in place with the ‘coffee’ table and chair. then we climbed into our single bed and listened to the howling wind and screeching sounds from outside. we could tell that ‘stuff’ was falling off buildings, trees were coming down etc as we heard the sounds of metal and glass and tiles smashing around outside.
the hours went by very slowly as we intently listened to try to discern if there was any increasing danger. sometimes the wind was so loud we could not even hear each other speak even though we were lying side by side. it was like being right next to a train passing. we just prayed the windows would hold – which they did.
the power of course was out and we waited like this until dawn, cringing as the blasts of wind continued to hit our windows and doors. when there was some light in the room (dawn was about 6 am) we could see that our bed was a little island in the middle of a lake. the water was about 2 inches deep and filled the room. the water was coming in under the balcony door and through the small gap in the windows, the rain was incredible and the powerful wind just kept pushing it in.
we could not venture outside so we laid in our little bed and waited. periodically we would get up to get a drink or check the other door and the thing that i thought was so wonderful and remarkable is that it was warm. the water we were walking through was warm, the wind coming through the windows was warm – we were warm! we were wet, just wearing tshirts and yet quite comfortable temperature wise. I was so grateful for this – I am used to our BC storms when the air and wind is cold and getting wet is not only uncomfortable but dangerous.
by noon it seemed the wind was subsiding slightly. we were wet the entire time as everything was coated in the moisture that was being blown through the air by the wind. our feet were wet for about 36 hours and we longed for a cup of hot tea. we had no food so around 3 pm Joseph put on his rain gear, shorts and good walking shoes and went out to find us some food. he came back 2 hours later with some small (and delicious) bananas, packages of cookies and some cashews, which was all he could find. obviously the shops were closed and he related the destruction all around us.
on the way into the guesthouse Joseph saw a woman we had been talking to as she was contemplating how to go out and get some food. Joseph gave her some cookies and bananas and told her to stay inside as it was still dangerous to go out. water tanks were blown off roof tops, numerous thatched roofs were hanging off buildings, power lines all over the place etc.
we ate our snacks and climbed back into our wet bed. the next morning our guest house offered a breakfast of boiled eggs, bread and hot tea and we gratefully ate this.
our meditation garden was totally destroyed – trees uprooted, sculptures smashed, light fixtures snapped off, pots broken and plants strewn all over the grounds.
today is January 1st and we enjoyed lunch with David and Kelley. they had a whole different experience at Auroville with falling trees, flattened pistachio and cashew forests and destruction – but they are safe and well. we have clean dry sheets, our laundry is hanging out in the sun and everyone is busy dragging trees and branches off the streets so life can go on. the sea is placid – hardly a wave to be seen!
Here are some pictures of our devastated garden from our balcony.
BELOW this is the promenade which is a popular place to walk in the cool of the evening. all the red dirt you can see has been flushed onto the road and walkway from the ocean – to the right is the ocean.
the big black rocks have been tossed onto the walkway by the waves. today the plows have been working on the road to remove up to 6 inches of debris, rocks and dirt.