Vacations with Hurricane Earl

Last Saturday, my wife and I set off for a late vacation in the Caribbean. We had hoped that we would be able to avoid hurricanes and foul weather. The first two days, the sun was out and we spent some great time on the beach.

On Monday, we woke up to strong winds, sheets of rain and a growing awareness of what we had gotten ourselves into.

Photo: wife takes video of bad weather from balcony
Hurricane Earl sweeps across our beach front on St. Thomas, VI

Our resort was located right on the ocean, but on the leeward side of the island so the full force of the storm did not hit us. We were also sheltered by hills. The resort management switched over to their own power generator even before the storm hit.

Photo: swimming pool and palms trees blown by hurricane winds
Hurricane Earl lashes the pool at our resort on St. Thomas, VI

Shortly after I took these shots, the wind shifted and came straight at us. Our balcony began to fill with water. Darkness came and we could not see how fiercely the winds were blowing, only hear their howling. That was the most intimidating moment.

Photo: waves beating against rocks
After the eye passed the Virgin Islands, heavy surf still battered our small cove

When we woke up, the worst had passed, but the ocean was still boiling and beating against the beach front.

Photo: Frenchman's cove on St. Thomas, VI
Only a few days before, this was a pristine beach and the waters were almost like a pond

Unfortunately, we did not take any before pictures of the beach front. We had been pleasantly surprised by the intimacy of the setting. We could practically step out of our quarters and be on the beach in 20 steps. The sands were clean. After the storm, the shore had been beaten and chewed up by the waves, leaving behind decomposing vegation and other debris.

Photo: two iguanas on beach
Iguanas come out of hiding after the storm had gone

Vacationers have to share the shoreline with iguanas and other lizards that bask in the sun and scamper up the palm trees.

Photo: beach covered with storm-driven debris
The waves churned up a mass of vegetation and dumped it on the sands

What most people don’t know about hurricanes is that the cleanup is a pain. The beaches are filled with sea weed, dead sea life, debris and gunk stirred up from the bottom. It’s like the vomit from a hangover — it stinks to high heaven. The authorities declared all beaches off limits for swimming and wading until testing could guarantee that the waters were safe. Clean up would clear away a first harvest of garbage and the next day would bring another layer of debris.

Photo: waves beating against rocky
Although Hurricane Earl had moved past St Thomas, heavy seas still pounded the shores

The storm tailed off over Tuesday, with a little boost from Tropic Storm Fiona, and the ocean began to settle down gradually. We will probably not get a chance to swim in it again since we are leaving on Saturday.