It took a great deal of effort and persuasion to get Mark out of the house. Even with a category 4 hurricane bearing down on Water’s Edge as a direct hit, Mark was convinced that we should stay. I was not so convinced. It took a lot of cajoling, bullying and phone calls from friends before he finally gave in and said that he would leave. We left for a friend’s house out on the west side of the island on Wednesday evening.
I woke around 3:00am Thursday to the arrival of the hurricane. The sound of the wind is something truly alien. A keening and moaning that has not peaks and troughs - just a steady, grinding constancy. Waking up to it is bad enough, but enduring twelve hours of it without really knowing what is going on outside causes extreme anxiety. You long for just one moment of quiet.
I was frightened to leave when the storm was still raging. I knew that by 4:00pm the worst had past but the wind was still howling, the trees were still bending and we had no idea what to expect outside of the walls of our luxury hurricane shelter. It took us two hours to drive the five miles or so back to Water’s Edge. There were so many downed trees and power lines that most regular routes were completely cut off. When we managed to get to an open route in the more urban area downtown we were cut off by the flooding. The water was a few feet high on most roads and abandoned cars were everywhere along the route. We finally managed to arrive at Water’s Edge - not knowing that the worst was before us.
Although we had just had a two hour first-hand experience of the extent of the devastation on the island, I really expected Water’s Edge to be fine. After all, the house has stood on the waterfront for nearly 100 years. Even though this was probably the strongest direct hit that the house had ever endured it had been through many a storm with nothing more than a ruined garden and some tipped over pots. I was horribly wrong.
As we pulled in to the driveway I immediately noticed that the picket fence along the front wall, the only privacy between the house and the road, was in pieces in the driveway, crushing the bushes that border the front wall and demolished under the fallen branches of the heavy sea-grape tree. OK, a fence, we can deal with that. I looked up at the roof to see a large patch of roof tiles missing, they were scattered about the front garden and driveway, but the roof looked pretty intact. Still not so bad.
I snapped some photos and told Mark that I wanted to see the back so I walked through the side gate (we had wedged it open to try and mitigate flooding and give the water a clear path) through to the back patio. What back patio? As soon as I turned the corner I knew something had gone horribly wrong. At my feet as I came through the side alley was a huge pile of concrete patio tiles. No chance of putting them back though. The entire bottom patio was gone. Gone, as in the only thing in front of me where half of our outdoor space used to be was a bed of coral and a palm tree - miraculously still standing in a small piece of remaining concrete. The sea wall had been more than compromised, it has been washed away. And along with our sea wall Hurricane Matthew washed away my hope that we would escape major damage. Mercifully the pool managed to survive but the sea wall, all of the bottom patio, 50% of the top patio, the floor of the bar, the roof of the bar, the interior wall of the patio, the pool equipment, the generator and more were completely destroyed or severely compromised (enough to require removal or major work).
Water’s Edge is a beautiful place. It’s a house that we worked hard to own and work very hard to keep. To see the beauty snatched away so suddenly leaving such emptiness in it’s place was rough. The scary part is that I know that if Mark had stayed in the house during the storm he would have definitely gone outside to find out what was making so much noise (concrete slabs bashing against the outside wall of the bedroom). He would have gone through the back door of the garage and been instantly washed away in what was a fifteen foot sea surge. The water had actually poured through the bottom floor windows of the house, although thanks to our hurricane shutters the flooding was minimal. In the midst of disappointment we could be grateful that we both had our health and that the house itself suffered nothing more than a few inches of water. Thankfully we had put up all of the furniture so all of the rug and furniture were fine.
It is now twelve days post storm and the aftermath has been difficult. When Matthew ripped away our patio he managed to rip away some of our pipes as well - which meant no water for the first week. Trying to clean up the interior of a house that has been flooded with sea water without fresh water is tough. For a week it smelled pretty badly in here. The power is still out. Twelve days after a hurricane there is still about only 60% of the power restored on the island and we have heard rumors of another few weeks for our ocean-front street. We managed to get a new generator installed yesterday which has had a tremendous positive impact on our sense of well-being (amazing what a hot shower can do for a person).
Our rock star maintenance team jumped right in on the repairs. The roof was fixed immediately and the front fence pulled down and completely replaced. They have already started the major task of breaking up all of the concrete slabs and putting the rubble in as fill where the patio used to be. Unfortunately, the Bahamas weather has decided not to cooperate in the re-building of the sea wall. The winds are coming from the NE at about 17 mph for the last week so installing shuttering against the rush of tide and waves is an impossibility. We will just have to hope that the winds change so that we can move forward. At this point we are rushing against the clock trying to get the house back to useable for the next set of guests arriving November 20th.
Our plan was to leave on October 25th to join a friend’s surprise birthday weekend in Nashville. At this point everything seems up in the air. We had to pull our offer on a house in Jacksonville (no, we don’t have hurricane insurance) and we will probably change our return flights for after we get the house back together.
It’s a big hiccup but we’ve had hiccups before and got through them to the other side. Here’s to the other side.
*UPDATE - We did it! If you woud like to see Before and After photos and descriptions of the upgrades you can find it here.