By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Laura was coming, I knew it, and so she was on my mind when I went to sleep. I didn’t sleep well and when I woke up I didn’t think about anything else than our encounter.
I tried to cover it up in front of my wife, but I had something like “butterflies” in my stomach and a knot in the middle of my chest that made it hard for me to breathe without sighing. I kept my anxiety under control, which was caused by a spike in my cortisol levels.
She wasn’t a woman, but a tropical storm that was threatening Pinar del Rio and every other Western province with rain and strong winds. She was heading here from along Cuba’s southern shores and it had caused damages in the country’s East and Interior. She was expected to come in the night.
Inopportune and capricious, she was going to come and make Cuban people’s lives harder, which is already hard enough with the economic crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the Meteorology Institute forecasts were saying that she would touch Cuban land again, right in the middle of the Pinar del Rio province, right where I live.
I was worried. My house is made of concrete blocks, with reinforced fiber-cement roof. As if that wasn’t enough, I have three avocado trees in my backyard, and if were one them were to get knocked over, the robust section would quite perfectly break some of the roofing sheets, leaving me without much of a roof.
Day broke with sunshine, calmly, with a clear sky. Nothing foretold the potential damage that was lying on the horizon. The whole morning and quite a bit of the afternoon was like that. Like a Hitchcock movie, suspense, terror… uncertainty.
We don’t have wood and nails, or anything to bolt down doors and windows. Neighbors tried to do what they could, some more than others, some didn’t do anything, as if they were underestimating what was to come, or they had just given up and decided to leave one more problem of the many that normally afflicts them, in the hands of Fate. I don’t know. I can’t read people’s minds, yet, I could see concern etched into their faces.
I had a few empty sacks in the store cupboard, somewhat battered, but they would be OK to fill up with some earth. A neighbor lent me a wheelbarrow and I filled them out with a small shovel. Another neighbor lent me a ladder and helped me to get them up through the door. I placed them in strategic places to stop, or at least minimize, the potential damage the strong winds could afflict.
I had enough earth up on the roof to plant a sweet potato patch. I took a good long shower and cooked food for today and tomorrow, because the power always goes out when these things happen, and you never know how long you’ll have to go without it.
I did what I could. I was proactive and I left the rest to my positive thinking which I guess sends good energy out to the quantic universe, and so things normally go in my favor. It must be a crappy belief but at least it helps me to feel better and more trusting than if I were to believe in God.
We waited for the weather to get bad in the afternoon, but it only got dark and there was a drizzle here and there to announce the arrival of the Storm. I still had electricity and was watching the news to keep up-to-date. The sky filled with grey clouds and there was a small shower.
On TV, images were being broadcast of damages in the country’s East and Center. Many electricity posts and cables had fallen down, some damages to housing and crops, and rivers swelling which cut off towns, were the marks that Laura had left in its wake after sweeping through these provinces.
But everything remained relatively calm here. Jose Rubiera, Cuba’s leading weather authority, announced that the eye of Laura had penetrated at 8 PM via Punta Capitana, Artemisa, in the San Cristobal municipality. This is extremely close to the Palacios municipality in Pinar del Rio. Moving in the west/north-western direction, it would hit almost all of Pinar del Rio, leaving by the sea at Puerto Esperanza, Vinales, at about 9:30 PM, according to forecasts. The power went out. It was 11:30 PM and I went to bed.
Once I was asleep, I woke up to gusts of wind. You could hear the loud sounds of things falling in the backyard. I guessed that it was the southern bands of the Storm that were still on land. The gusts of wind got even stronger, at some points. I activated the light feature on my phone and paced nervously up and down the house. Checking every corner, hoping that the terrible buzz of the gusts of wind would end. The winds must have been traveling some 80 km/hour, which might be enough to create some damage.
It finally ended at 3 AM, although it was still raining. I didn’t really sleep, at all. At dawn, I could see that I only had some branches on the ground as well as some 30-something avocados. I cleared the backyard. Out on the street, people were talking about damage to electric posts and lines.
The day after Laura was heavy, slow. My concern now was with the power cut and the chance that the little bit of meat and yoghurt I had left, would go bad.
Luckily, the power came back in the evening. There wasn’t much damage in my town. Not like in Consolacion del Sur and other neighboring areas, where people still don’t have power. I switched on the TV and, low and behold, the electrical grid in most of the province had been damaged.
Luckily, Laura remained a tropical storm and didn’t turn into a hurricane while in Cuba, although it still did some damage. I hope this is the last one this hurricane season.
Read another piece by Pedro Pablo Morejon: How a Regular Cuban Sees the “Medical Power”