Hurricane Maria brings pandemonium to tropical paradise

By Aubrey Kay Anderson | Sep 25, 2017
Courtesy of: Aubrey Kay Miller Scenes of devastaton abound in Condido, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria.

I moved to Puerto Rico more than a year ago, for the adventure of a lifetime. My grandmother (Mimi) and I settled in Gurabo, where our dance studio was located, and I commuted to Robinson School in Condado, San Juan.

Over the summer, we made the decision to move to Condado, across the street from my school. We were scheduled to move Wednesday, Sept. 6, the same day that Hurricane Irma hit San Juan. We rode out that hurricane in our "safe house" in Gurabo, and actually started moving as soon as the hurricane passed. We were without power and internet for almost a week, but we felt spared that we hadn't suffered more damage, and that Hurricane Irma only brushed the top of Puerto Rico. We finally got our power back Wednesday, Sept. 13, and felt very appreciative of what many take for granted. Finally, we felt like we could start to enjoy lovely downtown Condado.

Just as we were starting to adjust to our new setting -- walking to school, the beach and the pool, the close proximity of stores and restaurants -- we had to brace for a second hurricane. Hurricane Maria promised to be much more severe, and we had to prepare for a direct hit. Monday, Sept. 18, I had to clean out my locker, and school was closed for the rest of the week. I drove all the way to Gurabo for my dance lesson and jazz class, but Mimi was so nervous because the workers came to shut the shutters in our apartment that she made me come home. I did not get to have my lesson or class.

She went to the grocery store to get water and basic necessities, and there was no water left in the entire store. We have one portable fan that requires D batteries, and we have not been able to find any D batteries in any store from before Hurricane Irma hit. Mimi, who was used to Maine blizzards, was still relatively calm. It wasn't until her Tuesday Rotary luncheon was canceled that she began to worry.

By Tuesday afternoon, people were leaving town in droves. I was asked multiple times if Mimi and I were staying in our apartment. They looked at us like we were psychotic when we told them yes. Basically, we had nowhere else to go. I had the bright idea that maybe we should move our car. Since we are next door to the hospital, we decided to put it in their parking garage. As it turned out, moving our car was one of our very bright moments. The few cars that remained in the parking lot of our apartment were demolished. Even though we were starting to be concerned, things seemed relatively normal. We figured that this was just the calm before the storm. We ate what we thought might be our "last supper," and then Mimi binged on NCIS with the volume on 100 until the power finally went out, and there was no more NCIS.

We finally went to bed, thinking we would get some sleep before all hell broke loose. Around 2 a.m., we were both awake because the winds were extremely loud, and Mimi was awake the rest of the night; however, I slept soundly. Glass was shattering everywhere, shutters were being dragged back and forth over the parking lot, trees were falling, and total mayhem was occurring. The storm continued throughout the day Wednesday. When the wind finally died down, we felt the relief that comes from knowing you survived.

Later in the day, we ventured out into the apartment complex to survey the damage that had been done, but dared not go outside. Thursday morning, Sept. 21, Mimi and I went out to see the effects of Hurricane Maria. Streets were littered with fallen trees and signs, broken plant pots, shattered glass and traffic lights. Many people were roaming the streets, some with their animals. We were hard-pressed to find anything open. There was one tiny grocery store open, with a mile-long line that we opted to bypass.

We had almost given up, when I found a restaurant with very tinted windows that was open, and we got breakfast. We definitely arrived there at the right time, because within five minutes, the place was filled with people. The owners were so kind and had a power strip for everyone to charge their phones. They also had one of those now considered old, yet very useful corded phones, and they let me use it to call my mother and let her know that I was OK, because I was pretty sure she thought I was dead.

We are still without power, and I have absolutely no idea when anyone will get it back. It feels like a new world without electricity or internet. We briefly got phone reception and were able to contact a few family members. It was only then that we realized how devastating this hurricane was, because we have been without any news, even though we are living in the middle of it.

People are working diligently to clean the streets and repair the massive damage. It is very strange to be without communication with the rest of the world, or even our friends in neighboring communities. As we wandered the streets observing the devastation, I thought our family and friends might appreciate a firsthand account of what we have experienced.

Aubrey Anderson is a former resident of Spruce Head. Her mimi is Joanne Miller, formerly of South Thomaston.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Karen A Grove | Sep 26, 2017 14:23

So happy to hear from you.  I tried to text your grandmother between hurricanes but perhaps I have the wrong number.  Stay safe and hug Mimi for me.  XXOO, Karen

Posted by: Judith Weisman | Sep 26, 2017 10:25

Thanks for this article, Aubrey. You will never forget this earth-shattering experience. Glad you're ok. How did you send this in, since you are without power and internet? Best to both of you!

Posted by: Robert M Rosenberg | Sep 26, 2017 07:00

Glad you're ok. Our thoughts are with you. Hi to your mother

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