encounter with Jeanne
click a picture to see details
Thunderstorm pictured the day before the flooding
||It is September 13, 2004. As usual, we go
to sleep with the concert of frogs and crickets on our camping spot at the Guadeloupe
4x4-Club on the mighty Goyave River near Prise dEau. Towards midnight, we hear a
distant sound of thunder of a tropical storm, which comes closer and becomes heavier.
Lightening brightens the night around us, and masses of water start falling from the sky,
as it passes on with ferocious force. At some point, with the monotonous sound of our
12-volt ventilator and the steadily sound of the rain, we fall asleep again.
|At 3am Emil wakes up as the
noise of water surrounding us becomes louder and somehow different. I am going to
check the water level of the river, I hear him say. It only lasts a few seconds
until he shouts terrified: You have to get up immediately, I have never seen such a
thing before. Within only two hours, our idyllic river has changed into a
devastating monster. I am like paralyzed as, in the pale light of the lamp, I see the
masses of roaring brown water forcing its way in a large band through everything being in
its way. And this happens only a few meters away from our car. In the meantime, Emil runs
to the gate to check the possibility of escape. Too late, he shouts, The
water is already entering. Even on foot we could not make it.
Normally, the quiet Goyave River runs very smoothly
Our idyllic camping spot at the Guadeloupe 4x4 Club in Prise dEau
||Horrified we realize that we are totally
locked in by ferocious waters, which even dragged away the old truck tanker trailer,
parked just a few meters away from us, which was used to wet the dusty racing tracks. We
do not have any phone, cannot call anybody to rescue us, can only helplessly wait how the
situation will develop. Time is creeping on while we yearn for dawn and stare like
hypnotized at the murderous masses of water, which squeeze wildly past us, pushing huge
boulders with it. Desperately, we try to find out whether the water level is rising or
not. After one hour of waiting - what seems an eternity to us - finally a ray of hope
appears as the water is retreating slowly at the gate. And one hour later, the track is
again practicable by 4x4, even if totally washed out and covered with debris. Thanks God,
we are safe! The first thing we need now is a strong sip from our rum bottle.
|Actually, this tropical storm, which
brought 300 mm (12 inches) of water within two hours, came without any warning, as the day
before there was not the minor sign of its existence on the accurate American National
Hurricane Center forecast. It was formed right outside Guadeloupe and on its way to Puerto
Rico was given the name Jeanne.
From Puerto Rico to the Bahamas Jeanne strengthened to a hurricane. Two weeks
later, it costs the life of over 2'000 people in Haiti due to massive inundations, before
it reaches as the fourth seasonal hurricane Florida in 2004.
In the morning, when the water retreated, all the huge leafs of the
elephant ears are bent
Broken bamboo stems caused by the force of the ferocious waters
We realized the full
extent of the danger we were in and the luck that we escaped unharmed again in the
evening, when we watched TV and saw the enormous damages caused in Pointe-Noire and
Bouillante at the West Coast of Guadeloupe: Demolished houses, smashed and floating cars,
the chaos in the Supermarket Grand Marché and flooded and blocked roads by
huge boulders. We can speak of an even bigger luck that we never had to go through a real
hurricane in the two cyclone seasons we spent in the Caribbean. But it is by pure chance. Had we found a
reasonable shipping fare from Guadeloupe to Jamaica, we would have been there exactly at
the time, when Ivan, the terrible hit that island.