Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cyclone Days

Been an interesting past couple of days with a cyclone in the South Pacific. Cyclone=hurricane. They use different terms in different oceans. After Zumba class Tuesday night, the instructors said "we'll see you Thursday, just watch out for that cyclone." What on Earth were they talking about I wondered. Arrived at school Wednesday morning in the rain to find out we were not having school. Teachers were asked to secure their rooms and then were free to go as a cyclone was on its way. Securing our rooms included shutting all the windows, taking personal items, making sure textbooks were under cover, and moving all desks to one area. The public schools are shelter sites, so we had to clear space in the room in case. 

They all told us to be safe as we headed for home. Got a ride with one of our fellow teachers to the main road, and he dropped us off by the little shopping area and asked if we had supplies like water and canned food. Well, the store didn't open until 9 so we decided to chill in the coffe shop for 20 minutes  I had been wanting to head this way one of these days for a nice Chai latte anyway so it worked out. 

Grabbed some bread, extra peanut butter, and a few canned goods. I haven't eaten peanut butter sandwiches in a while :-) Then, waited for the bus in front of the hardware store. Lots of people loading up plywood. Wednesday's weather in American Samoa mostly consisted of rain for a few minutes with rather strong winds with calm minutes with sunshine in between. Was rather fascinating. My first cyclone day. My bedroom window even got boarded up. The land family took care of all the windows around the premises. At that point Wednesday afternoon, hurricane strength winds were forecasted to hit American Samoa by Thursday morning.

Here's what the radar looked like at that point. American Samoa is the pebble sized island toward the right of the big red splotch that was currently passing Independent Samoa. 

The DOE made an announcement on the radio Wednesday night around 9:30pm canceling school for Thursday, and by the looks of the forecast at that time I would have to. As I went to sleep at 10:30pm the forecast read as follows:

Tonight: Occasional showers...locally heavy at times. Isolated thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 70s. Northwest winds 45 to 60 mph with gusts to 70 mph increasing to 60 to 70 mph with gusts to 85 mph overnight.

Thursday: Heavy rain and isolated thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70s. Hurricane force winds 75 to 95 mph with gusts to 120 mph increasing to 85 to 110 mph with gusts to 130 mph before noon.

I was expecting to wake up middle of the night to strong winds and not really sleep much. Next thing I knew it was 3am and calm as could be outside. Huh. Woke up again at 6:30 to find the same thing. Boy weather sure can change quickly. The cyclone warning had been cleared for American Samoa but high surf and flash flood advisories and warnings remained in effect. The cyclone stalled for a while by Independent Samoa had taken a turn and was circling back around the other side of that island. The capital city of Apia got hit with some of the worst so far. You can see some photos here:

The cyclone is supposed to be making its way toward the island of Fiji. Well, two cyclone days for our island but no actual hit. Keeping those in Samoa in my prayers. Have only read about a few reported fatalities, but there is some reconstruction to be done; that's for sure. Otherwise, just rained off and on here Thursday afternoon and evening, which is pretty typical weather here. So that's my story of my first cyclone days. Instead of a snow day this year, I got to experience a cyclone day.

An announcement was already put out that Friday students are dismissed after lunch for who knows what reason. Welcome to island life. haha Guess we'll see if we really need to stick around, if not Hannah and I are gonna catch a bus into town and pick up our boat tickets for our little week-long holiday break trip to some of the other Samoan islands.

On a different note. I meant to mention in my post about eating with Segi's family that I learned tha there is corn grown on this island. I mean we had eaten corn on the cob some days at school, but for some reason I assumed it all came from somewhere else. Nope, they grow some here. I needed some new produce so I walked to a stand a short walk from my apartment. Scored with some corn on the cob ($1 for 5 ears), cucumber ($1 for 3 long ones), and yellow banans ($1 for 5). After my second workout for the day (as I got a bonus one in with the whole day off), I decided all I wanted was some this scrumptious plate from my produce score. I love locally grown fresh produce! Threw in a slice of bread, and if I do say so myself this picture looks just about as delicious as my little dinner really was. Now to make that corn one of these days. It's always been good any time I've had some on island so far- at school, at the church Thanksgiving dinner, and at Segi's.

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